In case you missed the alert we sent out this week …
On August 13, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) updated its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace. This guidance incorporates CDC’s recommendations for fully vaccinated workers to wear masks in areas of substantial or high transmission. While this is a guidance instead of a mandate, employers should be aware that the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their workers with a safe and healthful workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Following the recommendations may assist an employer in defending any possible claims by employees relating to workplace safety.
The Guidance encourages employers to engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered interventions to protect unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including:
- Facilitate employees getting vaccinated, including choosing to grant voluntarily paid time off for employees to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects. Remember that the tax credits under FFCRA/ARPA are still available for qualifying paid time off through September 30, 2021.
- Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work. As recommended by the CDC, fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should get tested 3-5 days after exposure and should wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. People who are not fully vaccinated should be tested immediately after being identified, and, if negative, tested again in 5–7 days after last exposure or immediately if symptoms develop during quarantine.
- Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers.
- Provide face coverings as appropriate, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE. In addition to unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers, CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. The CDC also provides that fully vaccinated people may appropriately choose to wear masks in public indoor settings regardless of community level of transmission, particularly if they are at risk or have someone in their household who is at risk or not fully vaccinated.
- Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand.
- Suggest or require that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments, and that all customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
- Maintain Ventilation Systems.
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
- Follow other applicable mandatory OSHA standards.
Click here for OSHA’s comprehensive Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.