OSHA Issues New Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

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The U.S. Department of Labor announced January 29, 2021, that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a COVID-19 protection program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction. The new guidance was in direct response from an Executive Order signed by President Biden on January 21, 2021 that directed OSHA to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.

Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides updated guidance and recommendations, and outlines existing safety and health standards. OSHA is providing the recommendations to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

The guidance details key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19, including ensuring infected or potentially infected people are not in the workplace, implementing and following physical distancing protocols, and using surgical masks or cloth face coverings. It also provides guidance on use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene, and routine cleaning.

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of existing mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace.

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