OSHA Releases Alert and Guidance on COVID-19

By now, we are all aware of the threat of the COVID-19 virus and what it means to quarantine, and OSHA has been working diligently to give employers as much information as possible to curb the spread of infections. Many states are now under “shelter in place” orders and have shut down many types of workplaces. Even though business has most likely fallen sharply since the outbreak, many types of businesses are still allowed to operate, including those that fall under the blanket industry of construction.

If your countertop fabrication business is still operating, it is important to follow the new OSHA guidelines to help reduce the rate of transmission. This is not only good for society as a whole but also for your specific workplace. Even one case of coronavirus infection among your employees is reason enough to shut down operations for the time being.

COVID-19 spreads primarily to others through water droplets originating from the nose or mouth during a sneeze or cough. However, you do not have to be in direct contact with the droplets to get infected. The virus can survive for several days on hard surfaces, and it is enough to touch one of these surfaces and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose for the virus to transfer.

According to OSHA, the spread of coronavirus can be mitigated in the workplace by following a few specific guidelines. All employers still operating should follow all of these practices:

  • Assess the hazards of viral exposure.
  • Evaluate the likelihood of exposure.
  • Implement controls to lessen the risk of exposure, including the use of physical barriers, PPE, social distancing, personal hygiene and frequent cleaning.

In addition to the above, OSHA recommends following general practices to help control exposure to the coronavirus:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content when soap and water are not available.
  • Do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose without first thoroughly washing your hands.
  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet from other co-workers, vendors and customers.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control believes that by implementing a routine that includes all of the above tips, we can beat this virus and get it under control, but it remains to be seen how soon we will be able to go back to “normal.” COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in several ways, and some of the precautions we must take now may have to continue for the greater part of the year.

Whether or not you believe this pandemic is as bad as they say it is, OSHA is on duty and working overtime to ensure businesses that remain open are in compliance of all safety and health measures introduced by federal, state and local governments. Our contact inside Oregon OSHA has revealed that they are receiving up to 10 complaints every hour about unsafe work practices, and the administration is taking all of these complaints seriously.

Due to the situation and volume, some complaints may be handled over the phone with stern warnings, but for the most part, OSHA is operating as usual while taking heightened precautions. The health and safety teams at OSHA are gearing up for a swath of onsite visits to ensure employers are not endangering their workers. If you have not implemented full health-protection measures, their next visit could be you. All it takes is one complaint by phone or completed Web form to get a surprise inspection.

For more information on how you can protect yourselves and your workforce while remaining open for business, please see the OSHA publication Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and visit the OSHA Webpage on COVID-19.