The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created resources for employers regarding COVID-19. Separately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created interim guidance for businesses and employers.
At this time, the risk of exposure for most employees is low, although certain workers have higher risks. Those with higher risks include workers in healthcare, deathcare, airline operations, waste management, and those who have or are traveling to areas where the virus is spreading.
Helpful OSHA Standards
Although there are no specific standards for COVID-19, OSHA has identified existing standards that may be applicable or helpful:
- General Duty Clause: Requires that employers provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Standards: Determines whether gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection are required.
- Blood-borne Pathogen Standard: Applies to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials. This standard does not typically include the respiratory secretions that may transmit COVID-19; however, OSHA believes it may provide guidance on controlling some sources of the virus, such as bodily fluids.
- Recordkeeping Standard: COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job.
General guidance for all workers and employees is to encourage sick employees to stay at home and for all employees to frequently wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water is unavailable.
Staying Current On Evolving Recommendations
Employers should consider how to plan in a variety of ways depending on the severity of a possible coronavirus outbreak in the US. We recommend checking the following health agency websites to monitor situational changes and updated recommendations.
- World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
- OSHA: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/
- CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
Join our LinkedIn discussion group, COVID-19 HSE Red-on-line Experts Forum, to share your experiences and best practices relative to the novel coronavirus with fellow EHS professionals and the Red-on-line team.