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U.S. COVID-19: OSHA & Your Reopening Plans: A Step-By-Step Guide for Employers

As state and local governments begin to ease restrictions on businesses and increasingly look to “reopen” economic activity, employers are evaluating how to safely return employees to the workplace. This preparation must include not only understanding the parameters of state and local orders (which often include basic social distancing measures, such as staying 6 feet apart, or requiring employees to wear face coverings), but also considering obligations under standards set by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).

Below is a guide for employers to consider as they evaluate safe return-to-work strategies during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Please consult BCLP’s additional guidance for a broader discussion of other considerations when developing a “reopening plan.”

Step 1: Review state and local orders to determine whether a business or workplace is permitted to reopen.

As an initial step, an employer must determine whether, when and to what extent it can open and maintain in-person operations. State and local orders vary in their definitions of “essential businesses” permitted to operate. For example, Georgia’s recent “reopening” orders only grant a small subset of businesses permission to reopen. BCLP is tracking the current status of state and local shelter-in-place orders nationwide, which are changing regularly.

Step 2: Review OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidance to understand and implement broadly applicable recommendations for reducing employees’ risk of exposure to COVID-19.

An employer should next carefully consider what  steps it must take to comply with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (the

To Record or Not To Record, That is the Question: Questions and Answers Regarding U.S. Federal OSHA Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements During the COVID-19 Crisis

April 29, 2020

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QUESTION: If an employee informs you that they are experiencing flu-like symptoms and complains that they have become ill from a workplace exposure to the COVID-19 virus, are you, as the employer, required by OSHA to record the illness on your OSHA 300 Log?

 

QUESTION: If an employee reports to you, as their employer, that they have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, are you required by federal OSHA regulations to record that illness on your OSHA 300 Log?

 

QUESTION: If an employee in the healthcare, emergency response, or correctional institution industries reports to you, as their employer, that they tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, are you required by federal OSHA regulations to record that illness on your OSHA 300 Log?

 

Read this informative article written by our BCLP colleagues for answers to these and many other important questions for employers during COVID-19.

 

We will continue to monitor and provide insight regarding any developments in OSHA guidelines, as well as other federal and state government regulations, throughout the COVID-19 crisis and update you accordingly. We also invite you to review BCLP’s other COVID-19 resources, many of which are aimed directly at answering additional questions and concerns for businesses and employers operating during the COVID-19 crisis. If you have any questions related the above OSHA guidelines or any other concerns for your business’ operations during the COVID-19 crisis, please contact a member of the Employment and Labor team or your BCLP relationship attorney.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Danger: CAL/OSHA Urges Protection of Workers From Wildfire Smoke

California is currently experiencing record-breaking heat waves and an increased number of active wildfire incidents.  California OSHA (CAL OSHA) has determined that this poses a serious threat to the safety of outdoor workers because smoke from wildfires often contains chemicals, gases, and fine particles that are dangerous to human health.  Inhaling such particles is particularly dangerous, says CAL OSHA, because it can reduce lung function, worsen asthma and other existing heart and lung conditions, and cause coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing.

In response to these concerns, CAL/OSHA recently issued an advisory notice that urges employers with employees  exposed to wildfire smoke to take extra precautions as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Program under Title 8 section 3203 of the California Code of Regulations and as required under section 5141 (Control of Harmful Exposure to Employees).  Those precautions include:

  • Utilizing engineering controls whenever feasible (for example, using a filtered ventilation system in indoor work areas).
  • Using administrative controls if practicable (for example, limiting the time that employees work outdoors).
  • Providing workers with respiratory protective equipment (such as disposable filtering face-pieces, like dust masks) in conformance with respiratory protection requirements, as applicable. Some relevant respirator comments made by CAL OSHA in recent guidance include:
    • Respirators must be labeled N-95, N-99, N-100, R-95, P-95, P-99, or P-100, and must be labeled approved by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH).
    • Approved respiratory protective equipment is necessary for employees working in outdoor locations designated by
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