The 20 Things You Need to Meet OSHA’s New Guidelines
Make sure you’re prepared for a successful workplace COVID program.
If you are like me, your eyes have been glued to OSHA’s website since January 21, 2021, the first full day of the Biden administration.
Each presidential administration brings its own priorities and values. The Biden administration is no exception. One of those priorities is worker health and safety.
President Biden signed the Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety on January 21, 2021. The three-page document compels OSHA to take specific actions to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure.
Some of those actions include:
- Revise a guidance document for employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency responded, updating that document on January 29, 2021. It is titled: Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.
- Launch a national enforcement program focusing inspection efforts on places of employment that put the largest number of workers at serious risk for COVID-19 infection or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles. OSHA responded March 12, 2021 by establishing a National Emphasis Program (NEP) targeting high hazard industries for inspection.
- Review enforcement efforts by OSHA related to COVID-19 and identify changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement. The agency responded March 12, 2021 by updating their Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
- Consider issuing an emergency temporary standard (ETS). As of March 19, an ETS has not yet been issued on a federal level. However, a handful of states have issued their own ETS. Advocacy groups and organizations are pressing OSHA, the CDC, and the Biden administration to issue an ETS. One example calls for immediate action to address SARS-CoV-2 Inhalation Exposure.
The executive order emphasizes protection from retaliation when workers raise health and safety concerns, also known as whistleblower protection. The theme of protecting employees from retaliation is woven throughout the executive order, revised guidance document, interim enforcement plan, and the new NEP.
OSHA and its new leadership have been busy establishing expectations for American employers and the agency itself.
I am reading and unwinding these new and revised OSHA documents so I can help you. I spent over a decade as an OSHA investigator, also called a CSHO (Compliance Safety & Health Officer). The documents OSHA recently released are common and act as help-aids for employers and as directions to investigators and state OSHA plans to conduct their work.
OSHA’s actions have a lot of information to dig into. For this post, I’m going to focus on the guidance document.
Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.
If you’re wondering what is expected of every employer, this document is for you. If you feel like you can skip knowing about this document because you disinfect every surface and are therefore doing enough, you’re wrong. I’ve identified 20 action items OSHA is expecting of employers. Those actions include:
- Written COVID-19 prevention plan.
- Method to stay current with federal and state requirements.
- Employee training
- Understanding how the General Duty Clause is used to cite employers until an ETS is issued.
- Designating a COVID-19 response coordinator.
- Conducting a Hazard assessment.
- Understanding the principles of hierarchy of controls
- Instituting protection measures following the hierarchy of controls.
- Reasonable accommodation policies and procedures.
- Method to train and share policy/procedures in languages employees understand.
- Policies on staying home, isolating, and quarantining.
- Policies to minimize negative impact on employees who isolate and quarantine.
- Policy for handling employees with symptoms of COVID-19.
- Cleaning & disinfection protocols when there has been a confirmed case
- System for screening employee health
- Recording work-related COVID-19 illness and death on the OSHA 300 log
- System for employees to anonymously and without retaliation voice concerns about COVID-19 related hazards
- Plan to make COVID-19 vaccine available to all employees at no cost
- Plan to not distinguish safe work practices between vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees
- Current compliance with existing regulations on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Respiratory Protection, Sanitation, Bloodborne Pathogens, and Employee Access to Medical Records
Future posts will cover OSHA’s other actions, including the NEP and enforcement areas. Those posts are coming soon – watch this space!
My eyes will stay glued to OSHA’s website particularly to watch for issuance of an emergency temporary standard. In the meantime, the team at HSI is busy developing resources and tools to help you comply with OSHA’s Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace. Follow the Accidental Safety Pro Podcast where I will discuss OSHA’s current initiatives with fellow health and safety professionals.
Jill James is Chief Safety Officer at HSI. Her 27-year health and safety career includes 12 years as Senior Safety Investigator with OSHA and several years in healthcare, education, biotech, life sciences, and the poultry industry. At HSI, Jill focuses on thought leadership, brand awareness, product, external relationships, internal training, and tracking/deciphering regulatory changes and trends. Jill is also host of the Accidental Safety Pro podcast and content creator of the Supervisor Safety Tip video series.