Understanding OSHA's COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidance
The emergence of COVID-19 in 2020 resulted in swift changes to workplace safety. For many organizations, the months following the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders were filled with confusion and frustration as they scrambled to create COVID-19 workplace guidelines that would protect their employees while adhering to OSHA regulations.
Fortunately, existing OSHA regulations concerning respiratory health, toxins, and exposure to biohazards line up nicely with the steps needed to ensure a safe workforce in the era of COVID-19 and social distancing, and OSHA was quick to make both general and industry-specific recommendations for combating COVID in the workplace.
General OSHA Regulations Regarding COVID-19
Industrial best practices concerning COVID-19 protection will, of course, vary from industry to industry, and OSHA regulations recognize this. Some COVID-19 workplace guidelines are, however, universal. Ten factors, in particular, apply to all workplaces, and include:
- Encourage Workers to Stay Home if Sick: Some employees will “tough it out” when they feel ill, arguing that it’s “just a cold,” or the flu. This is problematic at the best of times (a flu outbreak can seriously impair a facility’s productivity) but is especially concerning during a pandemic. Some facilities require employees to take their temperature and answer a checklist of wellness questions before going to work. If high temperatures or other symptoms are reported, the employee has to phone in sick until their symptoms pass.
OSHA Regulations and Employer Responsibilities
The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to provide each employee with "employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." This requirement extends to a workplace as free of COPVID-19 as is possible.
In addition to general OSHA regulations concerning COVID-19, employers should check for any regulations specific to their industry. Health care and food preparation facilities, for instance, may have to meet additional COVID-19 workplace guidelines.
Training during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Employee training continues to be necessary, but employees understandably balk at the risks involved with travel and offsite training during a pandemic. One option is to bring the instructor to your facility, rather than your employees to the classroom. Onsite instructors have the advantage of access to your facility’s processes and equipment and can customize course materials to reflect your facility’s needs.
Virtual and live online training provide another way to safely train employees during the pandemic. Thanks to advances in videoconferencing and simulation training, live online training provides all the benefits of a face-to-face classroom while reinforcing social distancing.
TPC Training offers live onsite training, virtual instructor-led training, and a library of comprehensive safety training courses, including how to guard against COVID-19. contact us today and we’ll help you meet your employee training requirements and improve your compliance with important OSHA regulations.