New from OSHA - Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

February 11, 2021


On January 29, 2021, OSHA issued new comprehensive safety guidelines on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. OSHA did so ten days after the Biden Administration announced its new OSHA leadership team -- James Frederick is now Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, Joseph Hughes, Jr. is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Pandemic and Emergency Response, and Ann Rosentahl is OSHA's new Senior Advisor. Mr. Frederick has 30 years of experience providing occupational health and safety leadership to labor unions. He spent 25 years in the United Steelworkers Union, providing technical guidance to the USW and other unions on occupational safety and health matters. 

The new OSHA Guidcance includes the following sections:

Executive summary
What workers need to know about COVID-19 protections in the workplace
The roles of employers and workers in responding to COVID-19
Additional detail on key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19
Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas
Installing barriers where physical distance cannot be maintained
Suppressing the spread of the hazard using face coverings
Improving ventilation
Use personal protective equipment when necessary
Provide the supplies necessary for good hygiene practices
Perform routine cleaning and disinfection

OSHA's principal recommendation to all employers is as follows: "Implementing a workplace COVID-19 prevention program is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work. The most effective COVID-19 prevention program engage workers and their representatives in the program's development and implementation at every step, and include the following elements..." The Guidance then goes on to list 15 numbered elements of an effective COVID-19 prevention program, along with a detailed explanation of each component. 

The new OSHA Guidance also includes more detailed, industry-specific COVID-19 recommendations applicable to each of the following industries:

Airline Operations
Automotive Services
Border Protection and Transportation Security
Cleaning Services
Correctional Facility Operations
Emergency Response and Public Safety
Food Manufacturing and Processing
Food Service and Beverage Services
Food Trucks
Hair and Nail Salons
In-Home Repair Services
Meat and Poultry Processing
Nursing Homes and Long Term Care Facilities
Oil and Gas Operations
Postmortem Care
Rideshare/Taxi/Car Services
Seafood Processing
Warehousing and Package Handling
Waste Management

OSHA publishes a running tally on its website, which currently reads as follows: "OSHA Coronavirus-Related Issued Citations as of Thursday, January 14, 2021 with total initial penalities of $4,034,288." The list includes a total of 290 establishments (including 17 in Ohio) located in 23 states where OSHA issued coronavirus-related citations and penalities to employers operating those establishments. 

If you have questions concerning OSHA's new COVID-19 Guidance, please contact a member of our firm's Labor & Employment Law Practice Group. 





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