OSHA updates COVID-19 workplace guidance

Written on: June 23, 2021 by ICM

On June 10, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance for workplaces, called “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”
It is intended to help employers and workers not covered by OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), identify COVID-19 exposure risks to workers who are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk, and help them take appropriate steps to prevent exposure and infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that most fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. The report includes guidance on:

  • Implementing multi-layered interventions, such as granting paid time off for vaccination; instructing any workers who are infected, unvaccinated, had close contact with a SARS-CoV-2 positive person and symptomatic workers to stay home; and ensuring absence policies are non-punitive.
  • Implementing physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in all communal work areas.
  • Limiting the number of unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in one place at any given time (with flexible worksites; staggered schedules and breaks; remote services or flexible meeting and travel options).
  • Installing transparent shields or other solid barriers at fixed workstations that cannot be 6 feet apart.
  • Providing unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings or surgical masks at no cost.
  • Allowing unvaccinated workers who are outdoors to opt to not wear face coverings.
  • Performing routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths.

The report also states, “Improving ventilation is a key engineering control that can be used as part of a layered strategy to reduce the concentration of viral particles in indoor air and the risk of virus transmission to unvaccinated workers in particular,” which includes HVAC systems.
Some measures to improve ventilation are discussed in CDC’s “Ventilation in Buildings and in the OSHA Alert: COVID-19 Guidance on Ventilation in the Workplace.” These recommendations are based on ASHRAE Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
See more at osha.gov/coronavirus/safework.