Earlier this year, OSHA issued guidance to help employers and workers stay safe from COVID-19 by identifying risks and taking proactive steps to prevent infection. On June 10, 2021, in conjunction its release of an emergency temporary standard for healthcare workers (see below), OSHA updated this general guidance to help employers protect workers who are still not vaccinated, with a special emphasis on industries noted for prolonged close-contacts like meat processing, manufacturing, seafood, and grocery and high-volume retail.
According to the guidance, implementing a “coronavirus protection program” is the best way to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19. The following steps are essential elements in a prevention program:
- Conduct a hazard assessment.
- Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
- Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
- Ensure that coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
- Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.
The guidance details key measures for limiting the virus’ spread, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols, and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also covers personal protective equipment, improved ventilation, good hygiene, and routine cleaning.