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Federal OSHA’s New Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

The guidance contains recommendations for maintaining a safe workplace, with a particular emphasis on protecting unvaccinated employees.
August 9, 2021
Federal OSHA’s New Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

Federal OSHA’s New Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued its Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace (the "Guidance"). The guidance contains recommendations for maintaining a safe workplace, with a particular emphasis on protecting unvaccinated employees. In fact, the Guidance makes clear that employers do not need to take steps to protect their fully-vaccinated workers, unless they are otherwise at risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Instead, employers should engage with employees to determine how to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at the workplace by doing things like:

  1. Granting paid time off for employees to get vaccinated;
  2. Instructing workers who are unvaccinated, infected, and who have had a close contact with a positive COVID-19 case to stay home from work;
  3. Implementing physical distancing of at least six feet for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers “in all communal work areas;”
  4. Providing unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings or surgical masks, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE;
  5. Educating and training workers on COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in a language they understand on topics such as (a) basic facts about COVID-19, including how it is spread and the importance of physical distancing, ventilation, vaccination, use of face coverings, and hand hygiene; and (b) workplace policies and procedures implemented to protect workers from COVID-19 hazards;
  6. Suggesting that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings;
  7. Maintaining ventilation systems;
  8. Performing routine cleaning and disinfection;
  9. Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths;
  10. Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards; and
  11. Following other applicable mandatory OSHA standards.

A myriad of states outside of California, including New York, are governed by OSHA’s new Guidance. Employers are therefore advised to consult with their labor and employment counsel to determine how Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 updated standards and OSHA’s latest standards impact their workforce in California and beyond.

Topic: Federal

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