OSHA’s new Covid guidelines call for employer prevention programs on jobsites

Me Photo Headshot
construction worker wearing hard hat and safety vest

In response to President Joe Biden’s executive order, new federal guidelines for reducing the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace have been issued.

The new guidelines, released January 29 by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, call for employers to implement Covid-19 prevention programs.

Such programs should, according to OSHA, include:

  • conducting a hazard assessment;
  • identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace; 
  • adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace; and 
  • implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise Covid-19 related concerns.

The new guidelines also address implementing social distancing, installing barriers where such distance can’t be maintained and face masks. They also cover improving ventilation, providing supplies for good hygiene and routine cleaning and disinfecting.

The guidelines do not carry force of law behind them. Under Biden’s order, however, the agency is being asked to consider whether emergency temporary standards are needed.

OSHA has been issuing citations during the pandemic, including for its General Duty Clause, which says employers must provide workplaces “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

In developing a prevention program, employers are advised to include workers and their representatives “at every step.” A workplace coordinator should be assigned to be responsible for Covid issues for the employer. The program should address where and how workers might be exposed to the virus at work and how its spread can be curtailed.

It should also spell out how workers who show symptoms should be isolated, provide necessary protective gear, and testing and screening. Workers should also be trained on the program.

For more details on OSHA’s new guidance, click here.