On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue updated guidance on how to prevent exposure and the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. OSHA released the guidance on January 29, 2021.
It is important for employers to keep in mind that this guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations; however, it is still important for employers to take note. In this guidance, OSHA reinforces that employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. OSHA states that implementing a workplace COVID-19 prevention program is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. They list several elements in having an effective program which include:
- Assign a workplace coordinator to handle COVID-19 issues on behalf of the employer.
- Perform hazard assessments to identify potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19.
- Implement measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Send home infected and potentially infected employees and require they follow CDC isolation/quarantine guidelines.
- Require social distancing in all communal work areas, and install physical barriers, and allow telework.
- Provide all workers with face coverings and other PPE (when necessary) and make sure that they are worn properly.
- Improve ventilation.
- Provide supplies for good hygiene as well as posters that encourage it.
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfecting.
- Protect high risk workers through supportive policies and practices (e.g., older workers and those with underlying health conditions).
- Do not retaliate against employees who miss work or report concerns.
- Train and educate employees on safety and reporting policies, as well as OSHA recording requirements.
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths if the case meets OSHA requirements and report any outbreaks to the local health department.
- Make COVID-19 vaccine available to all eligible employees at no cost. Vaccine doses are available to the public at no cost through various approved clinics throughout Kentucky.
- Do not distinguish between those that are vaccinated and those that are not in regard to protective measures.
As we have seen throughout the pandemic, state and federal guidelines continue to change as we learn more about COVID-19, and KLC will continue to monitor these changes for you. If you have any questions about this or any other personnel related matters contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services manager, or Justin Hocking, personnel services attorney.