On January 29, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued stronger guidance on identifying coronavirus exposure risks and implementing a COVID-19 Prevention Program at work, in response to President Joe Biden’s executive order on worker health and safety.
Be Cognizant of OSHA Standards
Review OSHA’s resource Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for Covid-19, which includes information on assessing worker risk and recommended controls to put in place.
OSHA’s General Duty clause requires employers to mitigate or eliminate workplace hazards that could cause serious harm to employees. The nature of the workplace affects the type and level of response that may be required. For example, health care facilities and organizations entrusted with care for vulnerable populations may need to implement heightened protection standards.
There is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. Among the most relevant are:
- OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
- When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
- The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030) applies to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials that typically do not include respiratory secretions that may transmit COVID-19. However, the provisions of the standard offer a framework that may help control some sources of the virus, including exposures to body fluids (e.g., respiratory secretions) not covered by the standard.
Other Helpful Links
View a list of OSHA & Workplace Safety courses available in HR Works’ LMS