Existing OSHA Standards and COVID-19
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) does not have a specific standard for COVID-19 or any other airborne infectious diseases. However, there are a few existing standards that may relate to COVID-19.
Right to a Safe Workplace
OSHA’s general duty clause states “that employers shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” 29 USC 654 § 5(a)(1)
While your employer has a general duty to keep you safe at work, OSHA has a high bar for issuing citations to employers who violate this duty. As of July 2020, OSHA has not issued any general duty clause citations for COVID-19.
Bathrooms and Hand-Washing
According to OSHA’s sanitation standard (1910.141), your employer must provide you with bathroom and hand-washing access.
When respirators are required, your employer must provide them at no cost to you and follow OSHA’s respiratory protection standard (1910.134). This standard requires your employer to identify and address known and anticipated workplace hazards and develop a written respiratory protection program that includes, among other things:
- Selecting the proper respirator for the hazard. For COVID-19, a minimum of an N95 is required. During N95 shortages, employers should look to providing reusable respirators such as elastomerics.
- Providing a medical evaluation to workers to determine if they are medically fit to wear a respirator.
- Fit testing to ensure workers have been properly fitted with the right size and style.
- Training that includes:
- Why the respirator is necessary.
- The capabilities and the limitations of the respirator.
- How to inspect, put on, remove and use the respirator, when to change the filters, and how to check the seal.
- Procedures for maintaining and storing the respirator.
- Recognition of the medical signs and the symptoms that may limit or prevent a worker’s effective use of a respirator.
Personal Protective Equipment
When personal protective equipment (PPE) is required, your employer must provide it at no cost to you and follow the PPE general requirements standard (1910.132). The PPE must be properly maintained, kept sanitary and fit properly. Workers also must be trained on how to use the PPE. PPE that may be necessary to protect workers from COVID-19 include face shields, eye protection, gowns, gloves and surgical masks where respirators are not necessary.