OSHA complied with President Biden’s recent directive to publish clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.
While this guidance is not binding regulation, it signals OSHA’s view of an employer’s obligations and what it regards as appropriate measures to provide a reasonably safe workplace. In contrast to the prior administration merely making “suggestions” for employers to consider, OSHA is now telling employers they “should” follow its guidance.
Additionally, President Biden ordered OSHA to consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 are necessary, and to issue any such standards by March 15, 2021. The new guidance provides insight as to what may be found in any mandatory standard that could soon be issued.
The guidance advises employers to implement a “COVID-19 prevention program” which includes the following:
- Conducting a hazard assessment
- Identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the work place
- Adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace
- Implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns
OSHA also recommends that the employer’s program include making “a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to all eligible employees.” Moreover, OSHA expects employers to proactively provide “information and training on the benefits and safety of vaccinations.” OSHA also cautions employers not to distinguish between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not.
The document entitled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” is available at https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework.