OSHA updated its guidance for employers to reflect recent recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week. A summary of that guidance is provided below. (For a more comprehensive version, visit https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus.):
Facilitate employees getting vaccinated (with benefits like paid time off to get vaccinated and recover). Businesses with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for tax credits under the American Rescue Plan Act if they provide paid time off from April 1 through September 30.
Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work to prevent or reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.
Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers.
Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate, unless their work task requires a respirator or other personal protective equipment (PPE). In addition to unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers, the CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission and notes that fully vaccinated people may appropriately choose to wear masks in public indoor settings regardless of community level of transmission, particularly if they are at risk or have someone in their household who is at-risk or not fully vaccinated.
Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand. In addition, ensure that workers understand their rights to a safe and healthy work environment and who to contact with questions or concerns about workplace safety and health.
Suggest or require that unvaccinated customers, visitors or guests wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments – and also that all customers, visitors or guests wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
Maintain ventilation systems. The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads between people more readily indoors than outdoors.
Perform routine cleaning and disinfection. If someone who has been in the facility within the last 24 hours is suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19, follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.
Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths. Under mandatory OSHA rules, employers are required to record a work-related case of COVID-19 illness on OSHA’s Form 300 logs under certain circumstances. Please note: For those employers requiring vaccinations, on recording adverse reactions to vaccines: OSHA will not enforce recording requirements to require any employer to record worker side effects from COVID-19 vaccination – at least through May 2022. (Previously for employers that required vaccines: in this instance, OSHA considered an adverse reaction to a vaccine as workplace-related and a recordable event on the 300 logs.)
Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards. Employers are prohibited from discriminating or discharging an employee for engaging in various occupational safety and health activities.
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