Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety
N THIS ISSUE: OSHA Emergency Standard and National Emphasis Program on COVID-19
Although there has been anticipation of an emergency standard for COVID-19 by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), there is no standard at this time and there are no plans to publish a temporary standard in the near future. With a new administration and OSHA director, Joseph Hughes, Jr. in Washington, there may be progress in that direction. Meanwhile, OSHA has started a National Emphasis Program (NEP) which went into effect on March 12, 2021. A NEP is used by OSHA to temporarily focus their resources, including inspections, on a particular safety and health issue or high hazard industry.
Although there is no specific standard, OSHA has used the Personal Protective Equipment standards to assess employee exposures to COVID-19 along with the “General Duty Clause,” which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” In a recent case, OSHA fined a tax preparation company $136,000 for forbidding employees from wearing masks. It also provides many resources such as the just released “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace”. There are many other resources on the osha.gov website
For those employers who want specific requirements, some state OSHA programs have published their own COVID-19 standards which may be useful, although not required by other states. Cal/OSHA has an emergency temporary standard that requires a written COVID-19 program. It includes a system of communicating information to employees, symptom reporting system, procedures to accommodating employees with medical or other conditions, access to testing, and hazard communication.
The standard also calls for the identification and evaluation of COVID-19 hazards, investigation and response to illness cases, correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, work practices, policies and procedures in a timely manner, effective training, physical distancing, face coverings, engineering and administrative controls, personal protective equipment, reporting and recordkeeping, temporary exclusion of infected employees, and return to work. Cal/OSHA also provides a model COVID-19 program.
Although OSHA has been absent in providing a temporary standard for COVID-19, there are state OSHA programs that have done so. Employers who want start or continue efforts to protect their workers should use these important resources.
Be well, be smart, be 6 feet apart!
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.
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