Kelly C. O’Connor was quoted in the SHRM Online article “OSHA Calls on Employers to Protect Workers from COVID-19,” published online on September 2, 2021. The article discusses recent recommendations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to employers about using “multiple layers of protection,” that include wearing masks, physical distancing and testing in an effort to protect unvaccinated and other at-risk workers, and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In the article, Kelly said, “key controls identified by OSHA that employers can enforce to help protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers include the following:
- Help employees get vaccinated.
- Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work.
- Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks as appropriate, unless work requires specific PPE.
- Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers.
- Suggest or require that unvaccinated customers wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments and that all customers wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
- Educate and train workers on the employer’s COVID-19 policies.”
In June, OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard – applicable to health care employers — that requires covered employers to create a written plan to identify and control COVID-19 workplace hazards. The standard requires nonexempt facilities to conduct a hazard assessment and requires health care employers to provide some employees with N95 respirators or other personal protection equipment. OSHA also simultaneously implemented guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace in other industries.
In August, OSHA issued additional guidance encouraging employers to consider requiring employees to get vaccinated to protect their health and safety and recommended that vaccinated workers in COVID-19 hot spots and high-risk settings wear masks.
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