The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed a set of guidelines to help workplaces reopen while keeping in mind the health and safety of employees and developing practices that will ensure protection from risks.
The guidelines contain principles that employers need to incorporate in their reopening plans. It also contains answers to frequently asked questions on screening and testing employees while also includes OSHA standards for minimizing exposure to Covid-19. This article has been written to try and make the main pointers of the guideline clear for people to implement a safe work environment.
Planning for Reopening
The guidelines state that employees should observe state and local communications from health departments to become aware of how the areas where their workplaces are located are dealing with the reopening phases as stated by Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.
All employers are required to take the necessary steps depending on the phase they’re in. These phases are:
Following considerations should be kept in mind during phase 1 of reopening:
- Make telework available whenever feasible and possible.
- Consider limiting the number of people in the workplace, for those returning to the workplace, in order to maintain strict social distancing rules.
- Accommodations (i.e. flexibilities based on individual needs) should be considered where feasible for individuals at severe risk of illness and those with underlying health conditions.
- Extending accommodations to those with house members who have a high risk of developing illness.
- Limit non-essential traveling.
- Continue making telework available if feasible.
- Non-essential traveling may continue
- Limitations on the number of people at the workplace can be eased but moderate to strict social distancing rules should still be observed.
- Accommodation of vulnerable workers should be continued as identified in Phase 1.
- Businesses should continue unrestricted staffing of workplaces.
Moreover, for all the phases of reopening, employers should develop and implement policies and procedures that address preventing, monitoring for, and responding to any emergence or resurgence of COVID-19 in the workplace. And should continue these practices to whatever extent possible.
Determine when, how, where, and to what sources of SARS Cov-2 are workers likely to get exposed to depending on their job description.
Develop hygiene practices including disinfectants, cleaning, and respiratory etiquette
Maximize to the extent feasible and maintain distancing between all people including workers, customers, and visitors.
Identification and Isolation of Sick Employees
Including practices for workers self-monitoring or screening, and isolating and excluding any employee who displays signs and symptoms of Covid-19
Return to Work After Illness or Exposure
Including practices for workers returning after recovering from Covid-19 or having completed a self-quarantine period after exposure to the illness.
Including engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) selected as a result of an employer’s hazard assessment.
Including those concerning remote work and sick leave.
Develop practices for ensuring employees receive training on the signs, symptoms, and risk factors associated with COVID-19; where, how, and to what sources of SARS-CoV-2 employees might be exposed in the workplace and how to prevent it.
Develop practices for ensuring that no adverse or retaliatory action is taken against an employee who adheres to these guidelines or raises workplace safety and health concerns.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q1. Can employers conduct worksite SARS‑CoV-2 testing, temperature checks or other health screening?
Yes. Employers may consider implementing strategies to reduce risks to the safety and health of workers and workplaces from COVID-19, if applied in a transparent manner applicable to all employees (i.e., non-retaliatory). All guideline practices should be implemented to limit the risk of spreading the illness.
Q2. How do I know if employees need personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Employers must conduct a hazard assessment in accordance with OSHA’s PPE standard, if applicable, to determine the PPE requirements for their unique work site. Employers subject to this standard must determine if PPE (such as gloves, surgical masks, and face shields) is necessary for employees to work safely after considering whether engineering and administrative controls and safe work practices can effectively mitigate identified hazards. Employers should consider modifying worker interaction— both among coworkers and with customers, visitors, or other members of the general public—in order to reduce the need for PPE, especially in light of potential equipment shortages.
If PPE is needed, but not available, and employers cannot identify alternative means to accomplish business needs safely, the work tasks must be discontinued. Cloth face coverings are not PPE. However, they can be worn to reduce the spread of potentially infectious respiratory droplets from the wearer to others, including when the wearer has the virus but does not know it.