June 25, 2020

OSHA Addresses Reopening of Nonessential Businesses

New guidance published by OSHA last week is intended to assist employers who are reopening businesses that were deemed “nonessential” and shut down earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency urges employers to use the guidance to develop policies and procedures to ensure the health and safety of employees as they return to work. According to OSHA’s press release, this new guidance supplements both its previous guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19 (PDF) and guidelines from the White House and CDC (PDF).

The new guidance document states that all phases of employers’ reopening plans should include strategies for social distancing, identification and isolation of sick employees, workplace controls, employee training, and hand hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection. OSHA encourages employers to continue considering ways to use “workplace flexibilities” such as remote work and alternative operations to conduct business.

Workers’ exposure risks to SARS-CoV-2 will depend on changing outbreak conditions in each community, OSHA says. The agency recommends that employers develop policies and procedures that address preventing, monitoring, and responding to emergences or resurgences of COVID-19 in workplaces or in communities.

“Employers should continue these practices to the extent possible to help prevent COVID-19 from emerging or resurging in their workplace,” the guidance states. “Such a resurgence could lead to increases in infected and sick employees, the increased need for contact tracing of individuals who visited a workplace, enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices, or even a temporary closure of the business.”

Information about applicable OSHA standards and requirements is also covered in the new guidance. A PDF of the document is available for download from OSHA’s website.