As advocates for workplace safety, we’ve designed and produced new safety signs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.Using visual cues to help remind employees how to safely navigate the workplace is important to help keep staff healthy — all the time. Check out our collection of COVID-19 safety signs here.
We’ve summarized the OSHA guidelines for COVID-19 below:
Prevention and Control
OSHA has prepared and developed a best practices guideline for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was created in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control. So far, there are no new regulations. Much of what OSHA has shared is a reiteration of previous standards to protect workers from potential hazards. These are tips and advice that emphasizes efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The guidance addresses considerations that may help employers prepare for more widespread outbreaks of COVID-19. The guidance in this post is intended for non-healthcare settings. Healthcare workers and employers should consult guidance specific to them, here.
In many cases, measures to protect workers from exposure and infection with COVID-19 depend on the type of work being performed and exposure risk.Other factors include potential for interaction with infectious people and contamination of the work environment.
Employers should adapt infection control strategies based on a thorough hazard assessment. Methods to prevent exposure could include using appropriate combinations of engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Some OSHA standards that apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19 also require employers to train workers on elements of infection prevention, including PPE.
Guidelines for all workers, regardless of specific exposure risks
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and running water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands that are visibly soiled.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
For most workers, the risk of infection is similar to that of the general American public.
Employers and workers in operations with no specific exposure hazard should be aware of the evolving outbreak situation. Changes in outbreak conditions may warrant additional precautions.
OSHA’s infection prevention recommendations follow the hierarchy of controls, including using engineering and administrative controls and safe work practices to protect workers from exposure. Depending on work tasks and potential exposures, appropriate PPE for protecting workers from the virus may include gloves, gowns, masks, goggles or face shields, and/or respirators.
Workers and employers involved in healthcare, deathcare, laboratory, airline, border protection, and solid waste and wastewater management operations and travel to areas with ongoing, person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 should remain aware of the evolving outbreak situation.
Identify and Isolate Suspected Cases of COVID-19
In workplaces where exposure to the COVID-19 may occur, prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical first step in protecting others at the worksite.
Immediately isolate people suspected of having COVID-19. For example, move potentially infectious people to isolation rooms and close the doors. On an aircraft, move potentially infectious people to seats away from passengers and crew.. In other worksites, move potentially infectious people to a location away from other people.
Take steps to limit spread of the person’s infectious respiratory secretions, including by providing them a facemask and asking them to wear it, if they can tolerate doing so. Note: A surgical mask on a patient or other sick person should not be confused with PPE for a worker; the mask acts to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions at the source (i.e., the person’s nose and mouth).
Restrict the number of personnel entering isolation areas, including the room of a patient with suspected/confirmed COVID-19.
When someone touches a surface or object contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19, and then touches their own eyes, nose, or mouth — they may expose themselves to the virus.
The transmission of COVID-19 from contaminated surfaces and objects is not fully understood. Employers should carefully evaluate whether areas occupied by people suspected to have the virus may have been contaminated.
Outside of healthcare and deathcare facilities, there is typically no need to perform special cleaning or decontamination of work environments when a person suspected of having the virus has been present, unless those environments are visibly contaminated with blood or other body fluids. Typical cleaning with household cleaning agents and soap and hot water are adequate.
In limited cases where further cleaning and decontamination may be necessary, consult U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for cleaning and disinfecting environments, including those contaminated with other coronavirus.
You should train all workers with reasonably anticipated occupational exposure to COVID-19. These workers should be informed about the sources of exposure to the virus, the hazards associated with that exposure, and appropriate workplace protocols in place to prevent or reduce the likelihood of exposure.
Necessary training includes information about how to isolate individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or other infectious diseases and how to report possible cases. Training must be offered during scheduled work times and at no cost to the employee.
Workers required to use PPE must be trained. This training includes when to use PPE; what PPE is necessary; how to properly don (put on), use, and doff (take off) PPE; how to properly dispose of or disinfect, inspect for damage, and maintain PPE; and the limitations of PPE. Applicable standards include the PPE (29 CFR 1910.132), Eye and Face Protection (29 CFR 1910.133), Hand Protection (29 CFR 1910.138), and Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134) standards. The OSHA website offers a variety of training videos on respiratory protection.
When the potential exists for exposure to human blood, certain body fluids, or other potentially infectious materials, workers should receive training required by the Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). This includes information about how to recognize tasks that may involve exposure. And also, the methods — such as engineering controls, work practices, and PPE — to reduce exposure. Further information on OSHA’s BBP training regulations and policies is available on the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens and Needlestick Prevention Safety and Health Topics page.
OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment Safety and Health Topics page also provides information on training in the use of PPE.
For more information, check out this OSHA publication: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf