OSHA to Improve COVID-19 Guidance

The last year has demanded a lot from the construction industry, and really all industries and communities.  In a short time, we have been forced to adapt to new conditions at an unprecedented pace, altering daily operations and job site conditions to meet the level of safety required to stay in business and keep our employees safe.  In addition to the impact that it had and continues to have on businesses, the personal lives and families of every company’s employees and clients have been deeply impacted and in need of support from all angles.

Despite these challenges, the roofing and construction industries continue to march on, and at the start of the new year we have seen new leadership push OSHA to improve guidelines for COVID-19 as they pertain to worker safety.  On January 21, 2021, President Biden signed an executive order that directs OSHA to issue revised, science-based guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the order “Protecting Workers from COVID-19 Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act,” President Biden wrote, “Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative. The Federal Government must take swift action to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace.”

The order also pushes OSHA to consider the following:

  • To determine if emergency temporary standards (ETS) on COVID-19 are necessary, including the wearing of masks in the workplace. If emergency standards are deemed necessary, they are to be issued by March 15. 
  • Enforcement of worker health and safety requirements
  • Partner with state and local governments to better protect public employees
  • Develop additional resources to help employers protect employees
  • Launch a national program with a focus on OSHA enforcement related to COVID-19 violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk.
  • Coordinate a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives of their rights under applicable law. 

While OSHA had released safety tips and a social distancing alert in Spring of 2020, the recent executive order states that OSHA must review enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 and “identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement.”

Just as with any safety programs, review and revisions of guidelines are required to ensure that they are meeting the needs and changing conditions on the job.  With new and improved COVID-19 guidance in place, there is potential to not only limit the spread of the virus, but to better track and trace infection in the workplace, and within the industry.

To learn about how Brauner Safety Services can provide assessments and custom safety training programs to ensure that you and your crews are properly equipped and prepared for all conditions on the job, contact Brauner Safety Services.

Article Update (as of 02/04/21): Since this article was published, OSHA has released updated workplace safety guidance for employers that advises the implementation of measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The guidance does not create new legal obligations and offers advice on safety issues, such as ventilation, workplace cleaning and isolating employees. To learn more, visit OSHA’s National News Release.

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