OSHA Guidelines for Reopening Businesses

Source: sid10/123RF

As previously “non-essential” businesses start to reopen, the CDC reports that increases in positive COVID-19 cases are being seen particularly in the Southeast and Southwest.  Evidence suggests that these increases are driven by many factors, including outbreaks in settings that are particularly challenging, as well as increased testing, and community transmission as well.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered bars, breweries, and pubs to be closed in seven counties – including Los Angeles – and recommended that they close in nine other counties as coronavirus cases surge in the state.

Newsom’s order comes two days after Texas and Florida – where new cases are soaring – also ordered bars to shut.

Experts say bars can be especially bad for the transmission of coronavirus, as large crowds gather and intermingle, patrons lower their masks to drink and raise their voices over loud music – possibly spreading respiratory droplets further.

On Sunday, coronavirus cases in California topped 215,000.

In addition, in some instances, the hospitalizations are going up as people seek care for non-COVID-related health issues as well as COVID-19. 

The CDC is closely monitoring these increases and currently have deployed well over 100 staff to more than 20 or so states, including those states seeing these increases to support the state and local health officials.

OSHA has issued a guide on reopening businesses after several months of closure. For all phases of reopening, employers should develop and implement policies and procedures that address preventing, monitoring for, and responding to any emergence or resurgence of COVID-19 in the workplace or community.

The document specifically states that limiting business occupancy to a number of workers/customers that can safely be accommodated to allow for social distancing is essential.

OSHA advises a protocol be established for managing people who become ill in the workplace, including details about how and where a sick person will be isolated (in the event they are unable to leave immediately) while awaiting transportation from the workplace, to their home or to a health care facility, and cleaning and disinfecting spaces the ill person has occupied to prevent exposure to other workers, customers, or visitors.

The guidance also advises that businesses evaluate existing policies and, if needed, consider new ones that facilitate the appropriate use of telework, sick or other types of leave, and other options that help minimize workers’ exposure risks.

Communicate about workplace flexibilities, and ensure workers understand how to make use of available options (e.g., fatigue management).

Some businesses are adopting an extra-safe precaution of taking customers’ temperatures on entering the premises and offering hand sanitizing.

The guidance adds: ” While covered employers are always responsible for complying with all applicable OSHA requirements, the agency’s standards for PPE (29 CFR 1910.132), respiratory protection (29 CFR 1910.134), and sanitation (29 CFR 1910.141) may be especially relevant for preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

“Where there is no OSHA standard specific to SARSCoV-2, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthful workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970. “