On January 29, 2021, OSHA issued expanded COVID Guidance for non-healthcare workplaces. The guidance contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature.
Face Coverings. The guidance advises that face coverings, either cloth face coverings or surgical masks, are simple barriers that help prevent respiratory droplets from your nose and mouth from reaching others. Face coverings protect those around you, in case you are infected but do not know it, and can also reduce your own exposure to infection in certain circumstances. Wearing a face covering is complementary to and not a replacement for physical distancing.
Prevention Programs. Employers should implement COVID-19 Prevention Programs in the workplace. The most effective programs engage workers and their union or other representatives in the program’s development, and include the following key elements: (1) conducting a hazard assessment; (2) identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace; (3) adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace; and (4) implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns.
Key Measures. The guidance provides additional detail on key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19, starting with separating and sending home infected or potentially infected people from the workplace, implementing physical distancing, installing barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained, and suppressing the spread by using face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment (PPE), when necessary, improving ventilation, providing supplies for good hygiene, and routine cleaning and disinfection.
The guidance states that OSHA will continue to update it over time to reflect developments in science, best practices, and standards, and will keep track of changes for the sake of transparency. In addition, OSHA expects to continue to update guidance relevant to particular industries or workplace situations over time. OSHA already has separate Guidance for Healthcare Workers.