OSHA Issues Guidance for Non-Essential Businesses to Safely Return to Work

June 22, 2020 | Insights

By Alicia Duleba & Brooke Leondar

On June 17, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Guidance on Returning to Work (“Guidance”). While there is no OSHA standard specific to COVID-19, the General Duty Clause creates a responsibility for employers to provide a safe workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this Guidance assists employers and employees of “nonessential businesses” in safely returning to work and reopening businesses. Employers that are considered non-essential businesses should use this Guidance to develop policies and procedures to ensure the safety and health of their employees.

The Guidance states that employers should also monitor state, local, tribal, and territorial (“SLTT”) Health Department communications to understand how local communities are progressing through the reopening phases identified in the guidelines for opening up America. The OSHA Guidance states that based on evolving conditions, employers’ reopening plans should address the following:

Hazard Assessment Assess level of exposure for employees and visitors, and consider current outbreak conditions of the community
Hygiene Hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and cleaning procedures
Social Distancing Ensuring six feet of distance when feasible, limiting business occupancy, and signage to encourage social distancing
Identification and Isolation of Sick Employees Self-monitoring practices, screening, and protocol for employees who become sick in the workplace
Return to Work after Illness or Exposure Self-monitoring practices, screening, and protocol for employees who become sick in the workplace
Controls Physical and administrative measures to reduce exposure, and personal protective equipment (“PPE”) selected as result of an employer’s hazard assessment
Workplace Flexibility Teleworking and sick leave provisions
Training Including symptoms of COVID-19, proper PPE, and preventative measures
Anti-Retaliation Protocols ensuring no adverse action is taken against an employee who adheres to the guidelines or who voices concerns about workplace safety

This Guidance also provides answers based on federal OSHA standards. The questions address the following bullet points:

  • Whether employers can conduct worksite COVID-19 testing, temperature checks, or health screenings, and related OSHA requirements
  • Reference to other laws that apply to COVID-19 testing
  • When employees who have been ill with COVID-19 can return to work
  • How to determine if employees need personal protective equipment

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Please note: This article and any resources presented on the JW Coronavirus Insights & Resources site are for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal or medical advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.