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Covid is Down But Not Out: Osha’s Guidance for Your Employees

On June 15th, OSHA released new guidance for employers that brings them in line with the recent CDC guidance released on May 28th. This guidance allows vaccinated workers in all industries except the medical field to go back to work without wearing a mask, unless required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

For unvaccinated workers, OSHA still advises that masks be worn and social distancing be followed. In workplaces where all employees are fully vaccinated, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure. If there are unvaccinated employees in the workplace, steps do need to be taken to protect those employees. OSHA points to 11 mitigation measures that they advise employers to take:

  1. Grant PTO for employees to be vaccinated.
    1. They also note that businesses with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for tax credits based on PTO given to employees to get vaccinated.
  2. Instruct any workers who are infected or unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with an infected individual to stay home from work.
  3. Implement physical distancing for unvaccinated and at-risk employees in all communal areas.
  4. Provide face coverings for unvaccinated and at-risk employees.
  5. Educate and train workers on COVID-19 policies and procedures in languages they understand.
  6. Suggest that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings.
  7. Maintain Ventilation Systems.
  8. Perform routine cleaning and disinfection.
  9. Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths.
  10. Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19 related hazards.
  11. Follow other applicable mandatory OSHA standards, including: respiratory protection, sanitation, protection from bloodborne pathogens, and OSHA requirements for employee access to medical and exposure records.

Some people will still choose to wear masks in the workplace, maybe to protect someone close to them, or maybe because it makes them feel comfortable. Regardless of the reason, it is important to respect the choices that others make regarding their safety.  This has been a trying time, and it is not always possible to know the circumstances that others are dealing with. Be kind and stay strong.