OSHA answers FAQs about face coverings in the workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published a series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the use of face coverings in the workplace.
The guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. Employers are reminded not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. The guidance also notes the need for social distancing measures even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for washing face coverings available at www.cdc.gov.
“As our economy reopens for business, millions of Americans will be wearing masks in their workplace for the first time,” says Loren Sweatt, principal deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. “OSHA is ready to help workers and employers understand how to properly use masks so they can stay safe and healthy in the workplace.”
OSHA’s face coverings guidance is available at www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/covid-19-faq.html.
OSHA revises COVID-19 enforcement policies
On May 19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration adopted revised policies for enforcing the agency’s requirements regarding COVID-19, according to www.osha.gov.
OSHA issued two revised enforcement policies to ensure employers are taking action to protect their employees as economies reopen in states throughout the U.S.
First, OSHA is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces. The new enforcement guidance reflects changing circumstances in which many noncritical businesses have reopened in areas of lower community spread. The risk of transmission is lower in specific categories of workplaces, and personal protective equipment potentially needed for inspections is more widely available. OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections and use all enforcement tools as the agency has historically done.
Second, OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of COVID-19. Under OSHA’s record-keeping requirements, COVID-19 is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases if a case is confirmed as a COVID-19 illness; is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and involves one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.
Given the nature of COVID-19 and community spread, an employer may have difficulty determining whether a coronavirus illness is work-related, especially when an employee has experienced potential exposure in and out of the workplace. OSHA’s guidance emphasizes an employer must make reasonable efforts based on available evidence to ascertain whether a case of coronavirus is work-related.
OSHA issues COVID-19 guidance for construction workers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a webpage with coronavirus-related guidance for construction employers and workers at www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/construction.html. The guidance, which is not a standard or regulation, includes recommended actions to reduce workers’ risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Construction employers should remain alert to changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability. In response to changing conditions, employers should implement infection prevention measures accordingly.
The webpage includes information regarding using physical barriers to separate workers from individuals experiencing signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19; keeping in-person meetings, including toolbox talks and safety meetings, as short as possible and using social distancing practices; screening calls when scheduling indoor construction work to assess potential exposures before worker entry; requesting shared spaces in home environments where construction activities are being performed have good air flow; and staggering work schedules to reduce the number of employees on a job site at any given time and ensure physical distancing.
Additional information and COVID-19 prevention resources are available at www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19.