The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued new guidance to businesses on how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and protect workers. Although OSHA’s new guidance uses stronger language, the guidelines are not regulations, and employers are not legally required to adhere to them.
New Administration’s Approach to Tackling COVID-19
Some states have workplace safety agencies that monitor private businesses, while others rely on OSHA to enforce safety guidelines. Under the Trump administration, rules and enforcement related to COVID-19 varied from state to state.
On January 21, 2021, President Joe Biden signed an executive order directing OSHA to increase enforcement of workplace safety rules to address COVID-19. The order instructed OSHA to create a new enforcement program that focuses on workplaces at the greatest risk and to update its guidance on how employers should address the pandemic.
Biden’s executive order also directed OSHA to consider implementing an emergency temporary standard to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. If OSHA determines that an ETS is needed, it will have until March 15 to issue one.
OSHA’s New Guidelines
On February 21, 2021, OSHA issued new guidelines related to the pandemic in response to President Biden’s January 21 executive order. The updated guidance is called “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”
It encourages businesses to conduct hazard assessments and to use face coverings, distancing of 6 feet or more, physical barriers when social distancing is not possible, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and disinfecting procedures, and improved ventilation. OSHA’s guidelines call on employers to encourage workers who may have COVID-19 to stay home and not to punish employees for missing work due to possible infection or for voicing concerns related to the coronavirus.
The guidance also encourages businesses to implement policies and practices that consider the needs of employees who have a higher risk of developing severe illness. In addition, the guidelines call on businesses to communicate policies and procedures related to COVID-19 in every language their employees speak.
OSHA is seeking to streamline the process of issuing citations to businesses that violate COVID-19 safety rules. That will allow violations to be addressed more quickly.
Order Equipment and Schedule Training to Keep Your Workers Safe
UniSheild offers several types of supplies that can help your business comply with COVID-19 workplace safety guidelines. We sell personal protective equipment, such as gloves, respirators, masks, safety glasses, goggles, and workplace safety signs. We also offer respirator fit testing and OSHA compliance training. Place an order or contact us to request more information about our training programs.