More and more companies across are either asking employees to work from home, or maybe even temporarily shutting down. The CDC and other health groups remind us to wash our hands, cover our coughs and sneezes, wear a mask and practice social distancing—but what can workplaces do about this virus? Well, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has prepared some guidance for that big question!
The OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 addresses several common questions about how to prepare for, and deal with, the coronavirus in the workplace. Below are some points from the OSHA advisory report to help you consider workplace safety through a new lens.
Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan;
Employers develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that addresses level(s) of risk associated with their worksites and the tasks performed at those sites. Such considerations may include:
- Where, how, and to what sources of COVID-19 workers may be exposed to, including, for example, the general public, customers, coworkers, sick individuals, or individuals at particularly high risk of infection
- Non-occupational risk factors at home and in the community
- Workers’ individual risk factors, such as advanced age, chronic medical conditions, and pregnancy
- Controls necessary to address those risks
Develop, Implement, and Communicate about Workplace Flexibilities and Protections; maintaining flexibility when dealing with HR matters, including:
- Actively encouraging sick workers to stay home
- Ensuring and making workers aware of sick leave policies that are flexible and consistent with public health guidance
- Impressing upon staffing agencies the importance of sick workers staying home
- Recognizing that health care providers may be overtaxed during this crisis, refraining from requiring workers to immediately obtain a health care provider’s certification to validate illness or to return to work
- Maintaining flexibility to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members
- Being sensitive to workers’ concerns about pay, leave, safety, health, and other issues that may arise during infectious disease outbreaks
- Providing appropriate training about business-essential job functions and worker health and safety, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any workplace controls (including PPE)
Implement Workplace Control; preventing exposure to COVID-19 hazards through the following:
- Engineering controls. Physical measures include using high-efficiency filters, increasing ventilation, and installing physical barriers such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
- Administrative controls. This involves HR policies, safety equipment and procedure training.
- Safe work practices. Examples include “no-touch” trash cans and alcohol-based hand rubs.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes gloves, goggles, face shields, etc. Note: While there’s no COVID-19-specific OSHA PPE standard, some regulations may apply here.
Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures; These measures should include:
- Frequent and thorough hand washing by employees, customers, and worksite visitors (if soap and running water are not available, provide hand wipes containing at least 60 percent alcohol)
- Encouraging sick or symptomatic employees to stay home
- Providing customers and the general public with tissues and no-touch trash receptacles
- Establishing flexible worksites and/or flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts) to increase physical distance among employees and others
- Discouraging employees from using others’ phones, desks, offices, tools, and other equipment, and maintaining regular and routine cleaning and disinfecting with EPA-approved products
LEARN MORE ABOUT EPA-APPROVED PRODUCTS
Reynolds + Rowella’s HR Consulting team is here to assist you in implementing the OSHA’s guidance to create a plan tailored to your business or other employment challenges related to COVID-19. Please reach out to Katie Hall for assistance.
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