OSHA’s New Guidance Focuses on COVID-19 for Safety Within the Workplace

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Post By: Salman Rashid, Digital Marketing Analyst at CloudApper

COVID-19 has been an unprecedented phenomenon since it was first detected in Wuhan. It changed our reality in several ways – it took away our dear ones, made social distancing mandatory, and made PPE like masks a household necessity.

It affected most businesses as well – it led virtually every organization to work remotely as safety within the workplace was compromised. However, after observing the benefits, many organizations declared that they will continue working remotely for a longer period, whereas others are adopting it permanently.

But what about the organizations that are slowly reopening and the ones that require employees to be present in the workplace such as construction firms, manufacturing plants, warehousing, etc.?

OSHA comes to the rescue

Fortunately, OSHA released new guidance that provides detailed and stronger elements that focus on preventing and mitigating COVID-19 – improving safety within the workplace. One of its elements is quite crucial – implementing a COVID-19 prevention program, and the guidance is targeted towards organizations outside healthcare. Before diving into the elements of the prevention program, let’s look at the issues surrounding the guidance itself.

OSHA’s guidance – neither a standard nor a requirement

This means that while OSHA’s guidance is stronger than the previous one, it is merely guidance and recommended for the organizations – they are not legally obliged to follow it to ensure a safe workplace. It recommends that organizations should work on a COVID-19 prevention program, conduct hazard assessments, and come up with measures to limit the virus’s spread – more on that later. However, there’s more to the OSHA guidance than meets the eye.

The guidance might be the first step towards updated OSHA standards

To understand the matter entirely, let’s take a look at the reason for updating the guidance. The changes were introduced due to an Executive Order issued by President Biden who had asked for updates that reflect the pandemic by early February. Moreover, he also urged OSHA to identify whether temporary standards were necessary, and to issue an emergency rule, if required, by March 15.

What it means for the future

So, what this likely means for organizations is that the updated guidance is just the starting point – mandatory requirements might be introduced soon to reduce COVID-19 spread and improve safety within the workplace.

Thus, it is heavily recommended that organizations start taking the new guidance seriously and implement a COVID-19 prevention program. The sooner organizations use the guidance, the easier it will be to adjust to the new guidelines that will be introduced down the line. Moreover, while many employers might face challenges in implementing the guidance, there are several ways they can approach it, such as using OSHA recordkeeping software – such tools help deal with OSHA compliance better.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the highlight of the guidance – the COVID-19 prevention program that aims to improve safety within the workplace.

Elements of the COVID-19 prevention program

  • Assigning a workplace coordinator.
  • Detecting where and how employees might be exposed to COVID-19 during work.
  • Identifying measures that will limit COVID-19’s spread in the workplace that complement the hierarchy of control.
  • Considering protecting vulnerable workers that might be prone to severe illness via practices and policies that support them.
  • Effectively communicating with workers in a common language.
  • Providing education and training to workers about COVID-19 policies in a language they understand and using common formats.
  • Guiding infected or potentially infected workers to stay home or in quarantine.
  • Reducing the impact of workers being quarantined or isolated.
  • Isolating workers showing COVID-19 symptoms in the workplace.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting facilities thoroughly after potential or confirmed COVID-19 individuals visit them.
  • Giving guidance about screening and testing.
  • Reporting and recording COVID-19 stats like infections and deaths as per the requirements of the OSH Act as well as health departments.
  • Protecting employees from retaliation and implementing a system so that employees can anonymously report COVID-19 issues in the workplace.
  • Ensuring that applicable employees get free vaccinations when available.
  • Not differentiating between vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. Vaccinated workers must comply with protective measures.
  • Complying with other applicable OSHA standards to ensure safety within the workplace.

Organizations need to focus on COVID-19 prevention to survive

As previously mentioned, these are just recommendations, but since it’s from OSHA, it is more than likely that some of these might become mandatory, especially implementing the COVID-19 prevention program. The organizations that take it seriously will have a head start towards ensuring workplace safety, and in turn, compliance with OSHA down the line.

About the Author: Salman Rashid is an avid reader, loves writing, and is enthusiastic about all things related to tech, especially PCs and smartphones. He’s a Digital Marketing Analyst at CloudApper and frequently writes blog posts for it regarding compliance issues.