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Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)

OSHA requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. Additionally, the law requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized health hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all employers can take the following steps to reduce workers’ risk of exposure to the coronavirus: 

Develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan

If one does not already exist, OSHA encourages you to develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19. Plans should consider and address the levels of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites.

Prepare to implement basic infection prevention measures 

OSHA recommends that, as appropriate, all employers implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including, but not limited to: promote frequent and thorough hand washing; encourage workers to stay home if they are sick; encourage respiratory etiquette; and provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.

Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification and isolation of sick people, if appropriate

According to OSHA, employers should develop policies and procedures to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Where appropriate, employers should also develop policies and procedures for immediately isolating people who have signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

Develop, implement, and communicate about workplace flexibilities and protections

The top recommendation from OSHA on this point is to actively encourage sick employees to stay home. Also, ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.

Implement workplace controls

It may not be possible to rely solely on workers to reduce their exposure to the virus. Instead, OSHA recommends implementing a hierarchy of controls to systematically remove the danger from the workplace, including: isolating employees from work-related hazards; changing work policies or procedures to reduce or minimize exposure to the hazard; implementing procedures for safe and proper work used to reduce the duration, frequency, or intensity of exposure to the hazard; and using personal protective equipment.

Follow existing OSHA standards

Finally, employers should continue to follow existing OSHA standards. While there are no specific OSHA standards covering coronavirus exposure, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to the virus.

For more information, please visit OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.