Due to the ongoing number of COVID-19 cases across the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new guidance on ventilation in the workplace. The guidance comes on the heels of a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that COVID-19 can travel further than six feet in poorly ventilated spaces in limited circumstances.
The key takeaway of the guidance is for employers to work with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional and implement steps to optimize building ventilation. Some of other tips in the guidance to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 include:
- Removing or redirecting personal fans to prevent blowing air from one worker to another;
- Increasing the HVAC system’s outdoor air intake;
- Opening windows or other sources of fresh air where possible;
- Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment when changing filters (such as safety glasses, goggles or face shields and disposable gloves);
- Using portable high efficiency fan/filtration systems to increase clean air, especially in higher-risk areas;
- Ensuring restroom exhaust fans are fully functional; and
- Encouraging workers to report any safety and health concerns.
Next Steps for Employers
Employers are encouraged to review the guidance and consider making any necessary changes to its ventilation system to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace as mandatory workplace safety rules and OSHA enforcement are likely be a high priority for the incoming Presidential administration.