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OSHA has recently published a new Guidance on Returning to Work document for “non-essential” businesses planning to reopen.
While OSHA has published this as a guide – and stresses that no new standards or regulations are being created – it does revisit and mention several existing mandatory health and safety standards, and cites applicable labor, disability, and employment laws including the following:
- General Duty Clause
Requires employers to provide their employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that can cause death or serious physical harm
- Employee Exposure and Medical Records
Requires employers to adequately secure medical records for the duration of the employee’s tenure plus 30 years and follow confidentiality requirements. This regulation may impact employers that implement health screenings or temperature checks that are documented.
- What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws
Includes a section of technical questions and answers, how to properly conduct screenings, what applicable regulations exist, and best practices for “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace.”
OSHA’s return to work publication also revisits the phases of reopening and stresses the importance of adhering to the enforcement and requirements of the Federal Government, state and local governments (including state-OSHA plans), as well as following public health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The list of guiding principles from OSHA’s latest publication are summarized below:
The principles were designed to assist employers with developing best practices, while stressing the importance of communication and effective employee training. Please note, these principles are not considered complete. To further this point, OSHA has provided additional recommendations and guidance on COVID-19 preparation.
- Hazard Assessment
Review job duties and determine potential workplace exposures to COVID from customers, visitors, or co-workers
Have soap, water, paper towels, and/or hand sanitizer dispensers available for occupants to use and encourage frequent hand washing through signage and ease of access. Identify high-traffic areas and schedule frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces
- Social Distancing
Limit the total number of occupants to ensure safe distances can be kept. Mark floors in six-foot sections, provide lanes or traffic-flow indicators (i.e. arrows) where width or space is an issue, and have signage up reminding occupants to keep safe distances
- Identification and Isolation
Ask employees to self-monitor for symptoms or potential exposures before coming to work. Establish a protocol in the event an employee becomes ill while at work and needs to be isolated
- Return to Work after Illness or Exposure
Refer to the CDC Guidelines for returning to work after an illness or exposure.
Develop appropriate controls to protect workers and minimize potential exposures. This can include erecting physical barriers, establishing new Standard Operating Procedures, re-evaluating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) requirements, and limiting capacity in areas through staggered shifts, or conducting meetings in virtual environments
- Workplace Flexibilities
If possible, provide work-from-home options to employees, and revisit sick leave, or vacation policies
Ensure that any training conducted is done so in the employee’s native language, and if formal, at their reading level. Training should also include best practices on workplace and self-hygiene, as well as proper use, disinfecting, and storage of PPE, along with its limitations
Reassure employees that they will not be retaliated against for raising concerns about their safety or health. Review their rights with them and provide a list of who employees should contact if they have questions or concerns
Please refer to the Guidance on Returning to Work document to review Frequently Asked Questions with respect to COVID-19, and other services and programs made available by OSHA to assist employers in complying with their responsibilities under the law.
For your convenience, Gulfshore Insurance has compiled all COVID-19 resources to one area on our website. We will continue to update you as more information becomes available.
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