Protecting Employees in a Pandemic: New OSHA Standards for a New Administration
With every new administration comes new standards and protections. Earlier this week, President Biden announced heightened enforcement of safety protocols to protect workers during the ongoing pandemic. The current administration plans to enforce such standards through an emergency ruling, which may be issued as soon as March 15. Throughout 2020, the Trump administration utilized the “General Duty” clause to enforce COVID-19 regulations. With a maximum fine of $13,494, many complained this enforcement approach to be an insufficient deterrent.
The New Protections
The new executive order calls for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to review and identify areas of improvement in its current COVID-19 policies. Many states have taken the lead by developing their own COVID-19 protection rules, including California, Michigan and Virginia.
What does this mean for businesses operating in this new landscape? Employers should expect OSHA to take a more proactive approach, mandating steps employers must take to protect their workers from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. Employers should be prepared to adopt the new guidance in the next few weeks as OSHA releases these new protections.
We can presume that these protections will include:
- Hand washing requirements
- Social distancing
- Frequent disinfection and cleaning of routinely touched surfaces, tools, and equipment
- Ventilation requirements
- Stay at home requirements if someone in a worker’s household is sick
- Employee screening
- Staff communication protocols for employees who have tested positive
Biden’s order states that “This campaign shall include engagement with labor unions, community organizations, and industries and place a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.”
Talk to your trusted RCM&D advisor today with any compliance questions. For current information on OSHA requirements related to COVID-19, visit their website at https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus.