February 4, 2021

“Stronger” Workplace COVID-19 Guidance Published by OSHA

New guidance published by OSHA on Jan. 29 is intended to help employers and workers identify risks of being exposed to or contracting COVID-19 and determine effective control measures to mitigate or prevent its spread in workplaces. The agency’s press release touts “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” as “stronger worker safety guidance.” OSHA’s new guidance is meant to be applied in most workplace settings outside of healthcare and emergency response.

OSHA stresses that the most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces is to implement a coronavirus prevention program. According to the agency’s guidance, employers should—as part of these programs—conduct a hazard assessment, identify control measures that limit COVID-19 spread, adopt policies that do not punish potentially infected workers for staying home, ensure that COVID-19 policies and procedures are communicated in workers’ primary languages, and implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise concerns related to COVID-19. Both employers’ and workers’ roles within COVID-19 prevention programs are outlined in the guidance document.

OSHA’s new guidance also informs workers of what they must know about COVID-19 to protect themselves and describes the importance of physical distancing, good hand hygiene, and face coverings. An extensive list of recommendations concerning administrative and engineering controls and personal protective equipment is included.

The guidance is not a standard or regulation. According to OSHA, the guidance will be updated as science, best practices, and standards develop, and the agency intends to keep track of changes for transparency’s sake. For more information, refer to the full guidance document or OSHA’s press release announcing its availability.