Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance titled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.” The new guidance, which is advisory, addresses not only some of the more commonplace safety practices (such as mask wearing, etc.) but also other employment policies and practices not as readily associated with workplace safety. HR legal experts are advising employers when you are updating or implementing new policies related to topics such as vaccines, COVID-19-related leave, and antiretaliation policies, you should include in your analysis the impact of the guidance on your policies and their potential impact on workplace safety.
Much of OSHA’s recent COVID-19 guidance involves practices that are now commonplace: maintaining social distance, wearing face coverings, practicing good hygiene, and disinfecting regularly. However, the new guidance also recommends additional practices to help maximize the effectiveness of employers’ current procedures. For example, the new guidance focuses on:
[For details see, Sara T. Quinn’s, Esq., Butler Snow LLP, article: OSHA Guidance Touches on More Than Masks, Distancing - HR Daily Advisor (blr.com)]
- Hazard assessments to pinpoint employees’ specific safety needs;
- Ensuring employee input into needed procedures because they are often in the best place to point out hazards specific to their own working conditions;
- Ensuring safety procedures are communicated effectively—meaning they are widely available in formats employees understand (i.e., American Sign Language, non-English spoken languages);
- Appointment of an individual “point-person” to be responsible for COVID-19 on the employer’s behalf;
- Adoption of policies that reduce negative impacts on employees missing work due to COVID-19; and
- Implementation of protections that reassure employees they won’t be retaliated against if they raise questions or concerns with workplace safety procedures.