The U.S. Department of Labor announced that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued stronger worker safety guidance. It has prepared Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace for employer planning purposes.
It is intended to help employers and workers implement stronger coronavirus protection programs. Employers and workers should use this guidance to help identify risks of being exposed to and of contracting COVID-19 in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement.
The guidance announced recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:
- Conduct a hazard assessment.
- Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
- Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
- Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
- Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.
Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace includes recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.
While this guidance is not a standard or regulation, employers should prepare for more enforcement actions by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the Biden administration, according to Edwin G. Foulke Jr., former OSHA administrator and now a partner at Fisher Phillips, and reported by Bloomberg Law.