COVID-19 has swept across the country at an alarming rate, sickening nearly half a million people in just a few months. The fallout has been swift, with thousands of non-essential businesses closing and those workers considered critical to the fight against the virus experiencing an increased risk for infection. Much about this virus remains unknown. However, employers with workers still on the job have a responsibility to help protect their workers from infection.
OSHA has not issued any COVID-19 specific regulations for workplace safety, However, existing standards apply to prevent exposure while on the job. These include the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, respiratory protection, and eye and face protection. In addition, the General Duty Clause requires that employers provide “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
Resources for Reducing Workplace Risks
While most workers in the construction industry would be considered at low risk for exposure, employers can play a significant role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 while on the job. OSHA’s Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 offers a range of ways to help protect workers. These include the following.
- Encouraging frequent and thorough hand washing or access to hand sanitizing wipes with at least 60% alcohol content when handwashing with soap and water isn’t feasible.
- Encouraging covering coughs and sneezes with an elbow.
- Offering paid sick leave and encouraging sick workers to stay at home until they’re well.
- Creatively modifying hours and shifts to reduce the number of employees working at one time to make social distancing practices more feasible.
- Routinely disinfecting workspaces.
- Discouraging the use of shared tools and equipment.
While it’s impossible to eliminate all risk of COVID-19 infection, employers play a key role in keeping their employees safe while on the job. By identifying potential sources of transmission and putting protective measures in place early, you not only ensure a safer workplace, but also shield your business from unnecessary risk.