The United States, along with the rest of the world, has been living with COVID-19 for almost one year. While signs that we are closer to the end of the pandemic are visible, including the vaccine rollout, this is not the time to relax the variety of safety measures that have been implemented at home, in public, and at work. OSHA is still working hard to monitor workplace safety, for even though companies have generally found ways to operate in the “new normal”, different types of safety hazards are still popping up.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor issued stronger and clearer workplace safety guidelines to help facilitate a safe and healthy work environment. A key part of the new guidance is the implementation of a coronavirus prevention program to help mitigate and prevent the spread of the virus. The program would ideally:
- Begin with a thorough hazard assessment of the workplace. Identify the conditions that could potentially lead to infection.
- Find control measures that will help limit the chance of the virus spreading through the facility.
- Establish policies that allow encourage potentially ill or exposed employees to work from home to prevent infecting others while protecting their job.
- Create ways to communicate all created and updated policies in any and all languages that employees use.
- Reassure employees that they can report and discuss any concerns related to COVID-19 without fear of retaliation.
The new guidelines also reminds companies to enforce physical distancing and proper mask usage, and suggests they provide necessary tools to protect employees as required, including face coverings and personal protective equipment, as well as hygiene products like soap, hand sanitizer, and tissues. Companies should also establish routine thorough cleaning of their facilities to prevent contamination and exposure. These recommendations do not come with any new laws, but rather are suggestions. Employers should look at the complete guidance here to see what they need to do to best serve and protect their employees and company.
PPE is still incredibly important in fighting COVID-19, and while availability has increased, there are still shortages. In October 2020, OSHA issued temporary guidance on respirator fit testing, updating policies to provide as much far-reaching protection as possible. The guidance explained how the organization would permit the use of tight-fitting powered air-purifying NIOSH-approved respirators when traditional OSHA-approved initial and annual fit testing was unavailable. This temporary guidance is still and shall remain in effect until further notice. Before choosing an alternate to traditional OSHA-approved respirators, employers and employees should review the initial press release here to find a list of recommended alternatives, as well as what products to avoid.
OSHA is also regularly responding to workplace complaints and concerns. The number of complaints followed a similar path of the pandemic. As different parts of the country grappled with their overlapping first waves, OSHA was receiving close to or over 100 complaints almost every day, but as the country entered the summer months when cases dropped, so did the number of complaints. However, in the late fall and early winter, the daily number of complaints rose with the number of cases, and are now dropping to summer and early fall numbers. For a more in-depth look at complaint breakdowns by day, week, and industry, click here.
OccuMed of New England is excited to offer a wide range of on-site medical services to fit your company’s every need. Though we primarily serve the healthcare sector, we also work with construction sites. If you are looking to comply with OSHA guidelines for respirator fit testing, contact us today for a quote, for we want your employees to be confident knowing their PPE is providing them maximum protection. In conjunction, we also offer medical evaluations required by OSHA to make sure your employees are medically able to wear a respirator.
If you have concerns about your workforce and coronavirus, please contact us today to learn about steps you can take to protect yourself, your family, and your employees. We offer the following COVID-19 safety service options:
COVID-19 Consulting Bundle: Written directive/policy on requirements which can be either a corporate policy or a site-specific policy.
COVID-19 Training (Infection Control Webinar): We offer Open Enrollment Classes and Private Company Sponsored Classes made available at your convenience.
COVID-19 Testing: COVID-19 Testing Services for Colleges, Universities, Private Companies, And Public Agencies are available. We now offer Pick Up and Drop Off COVID-19 Testing at our Canton, MA location.