To date, there have been nearly 27 million COVID-19 cases in the United States. The good news is cases are starting to decline, likely due to the 41 million vaccines administered across the country and the continued effort of those following safety measures. Employers can do their part to reduce the spread by following the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) new guidance.
On January 29, 2021, OSHA issued a new guidance for employers on how to protect their workers and further prevent the spread of COVID-19. The guidance expands on already well-established protocols, i.e., sending ill workers home, wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and cleaning and disinfecting. But the guidance includes several new recommendations as well.
It’s important to note that the guidance is not a standard or regulation, creates no new legal obligations for employers and is completely advisory in nature. OSHA has released these updates to help employers recognize and decrease COVID safety hazards.
The Associated General Contractors of America outlined the new recommendations, which include:
- Involve employees, their union or other representatives in developing a COVID-19 safety plan.
- Provide information and training on the benefits and safety of vaccines. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a document for this purpose.
- Make the COVID-19 vaccine available at NO cost to all eligible employees. This doesn’t make them mandatory, just available.
- Minimize the negative impact of quarantine and isolation by giving employees the option to work remotely or in isolated areas. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides certain employers 100% reimbursement through tax credits to provide employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19 through March 31, 2021.
- Protect workers from retaliation by setting up an anonymous process for them to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
- Don’t distinguish between workers who are vaccinated from those who are not. Vaccinated workers should still wear masks and practice social distancing. Currently, there is no evidence that the COVID vaccines prevent transmitting the virus from person-to-person.
- Offer guidance on screening and testing. Follow state or local testing guidelines or arrange for onsite testing through your health provider or local health department.
Keep in mind as information about COVID and the vaccine changes, so will OSHA’s recommendations.
Arcoro offers a COVID-19 self-screening mobile health form on its time clock app to support businesses in their efforts to screen workers at clock-in.