February 17, 2021
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has issued a new workplace safety guidance for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic titled, “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” (the “Guidance”). The Guidance is not mandatory and does not create any new legal obligations for employers. The Guidance only provides recommendations that are advisory in nature as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. Pursuant to the General Duty Clause under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers, however, are still required to provide a workplace free from any recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Accordingly, employers, as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace, should review the Guidance, which is intended to provide assistance in recognizing and abating hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
The Guidance encourages employers to implement COVID-19 prevention programs in the workplace, as OSHA has taken the position that “implementing a workplace COVID-19 prevention program is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work.” The Guidance specifically recommends that a COVID-19 prevention program include the following 16 elements in order for the program to be effective: