OSHA Issues Guidelines on Mitigating the Spread Of COVID-19 in the Workplace

On January 29, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance outlines OSHA’s recommendations for best practices and while it does not impose any additional legal requirements on employers, the guidance also reminds employers of their obligations under existing federal laws to provide a hazard-free workplace.

To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the OSHA guidance urges employers to institute a COVID-19 prevention program that includes the following best practices:

  • Assign a workplace coordinator to be responsible for implementing the COVID-19 plan.
  • Identify potential COVID-19 workplace hazards by conducting a hazard assessment.
  • Implement measures that limit the spread of COVID-19, including:
    • requiring employees who are ill, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 to quarantine at home
    • require physical distancing;
    • require the use of facemasks and other personal protection equipment;
    • provide good ventilation throughout the workplace;
    • promote good hygiene practices such as regular hand washing;
    • clean and disinfect the workplace on a regular basis.
  • Protect higher-risk employees, including those with disabilities, by providing reasonable accommodations per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • Encourage employee reporting of COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, or hazards.
  • Provide education and training to employees on COVID-19 policies and procedures in a language they understand.
  • Minimize the negative impact of quarantine on employees by allowing telework and being flexible with the use of paid sick leave.
  • Provide COVID-19 screening and testing in the workplace.
  • Make COVID-19 vaccines available to all employees at no cost and provide information on the safety and benefits of vaccines.
  • Follow OSHA’s reporting and recording obligations for COVID-19 illnesses and injuries. 
  • Protect employees from any retaliation for reporting COVID-19-related hazards in the workplace and provide a way for employees to report such hazards anonymously.
  • Ensure employees who have already been vaccinated continue to follow protective protocols such as wearing masks, washing hands regularly, practicing social distancing, etc.
  • Continue to follow additional OSHA standards for protecting employees from infection, including requirements for PPE, sanitation, and employee access to medical and exposure records.

President Biden has ordered OSHA to consider the necessity of federal standards for COVID-19 prevention programs in the workplace. If OSHA determines a federal mandatory standard is necessary, the agency must issue those standards by March 15, 2021. 

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 678-439-6236.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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