OSHA Issues Updated Pandemic Guidance

July 9, 2020 | Insights



By Lionel Schooler, Alicia Duleba, & Richard Garza

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently updated its website by including frequently asked questions pertaining to workplace safety and the many challenges confronting employers with the COVID-19 outbreak. The information contained in the update includes new guidance pertaining to workplace gear for employees.

No. Category Question Interpretation of Updated Guidance
1. Cloth Face Coverings Should workers wear a cloth face covering while at work, in accordance with the CDC recommendation for all people to do so when in public? Yes. OSHA generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work. Face coverings are intended to prevent wearers who have COVID-19 without knowing it from spreading potentially infectious respiratory droplets to others.

Employers have the discretion to determine whether to allow employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace based on the specific circumstances present at the work site.

Also, where cloth face coverings can become contaminated, such as by exposure to chemicals, employers are encouraged to provide other types of face coverings.

2. Social Distancing and Cloth Face Covers If workers wear cloth face coverings, do employers still need to ensure social distancing measures in the workplace? Yes. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing measures.
3. Providing Face Coverings Are employers required to provide cloth face coverings to workers? No. Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. As such, OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide them. Employers may choose to ensure that cloth face coverings are worn as a feasible means of abatement in a control plan designed to address COVID-19 hazards.
4. Cleaning Reusable Cloth Face Coverings If an employee wears a reusable cloth face covering, how should it be cleaned? OSHA suggests following CDC recommendations, and OSHA also recommends washing or discarding cloth face coverings that are visibly soiled.
5. Protecting the Workplace How should I clean and disinfect my workplace? The CDC provides updated information about such cleaning and disinfecting techniques.

See the CDC’s Reopening Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes »
6. Assessing Workplace Risks What should an employer do to assess the workplace risk of employees being exposed to COVID-19? An employer should conduct risk and hazard assessments for all types of workers and then create plans to address identified hazards.

See OSHA’s tools for hazard identification and assessment »
7. Return to Work When can employees who have had COVID-19, or may have had COVID-19, return to work? OSHA refers employers to CDC’s guidance regarding discontinuing self-isolation for employees in non-healthcare employment and to its Medical Information page regarding return to work.

For more information on these or other issues of guidance with OSHA requirements, contact Lionel Schooler (713.752.4516; lschooler@jw.com), Alicia Duleba (512.236.2224; aduleba@jw.com), or Richard Garza (210.978.7734; rgarza@jw.com) for further assistance.

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Please note: This article and any resources presented on the Jackson Walker Coronavirus microsite do not constitute legal or medical advice.