Client Alert

OSHA Continues to Publish Alerts Offering Industry-Specific Safety Guidance

May 18, 2020

By Carson Sullivan, Ken Willner, Sara Tomezsko & Ira Klein

By now, employers are likely to be familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA’s”) Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, a document designed to help employers protect their employees and their workplaces during the ongoing pandemic. In addition to these general guidelines, OSHA has recently started releasing one-page alerts specific to various types of workplaces and industry sectors.

These brief alerts, available in both English and Spanish, provide high-level guidance on safety best practices tailored to address safety issues unique to a variety of workforces, industries, and workplaces. As of May 15, 2020, OSHA has published alerts addressing guidance for the following sectors:

Employers and workers alike should consult the alert specific to their own industry for the most relevant guidance on how to promote and maintain a safe workplace. Businesses should regularly consult OSHA’s COVID-19 website for the latest additions to this growing list of industry-specific alerts, as well as review any joint guidance issued by OSHA and the CDC. [2]

For businesses and industry segments yet to be addressed, the below is a summary of the safety tips contained in OSHA’s alerts that have already been published. These general principles offer guidance on how to safely continue operations as an essential business, or prepare the workplace to reopen:

  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.

  • Where appropriate and feasible, establish flexible hours or staggered shifts.

  • Provide a place to wash hands or alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.

  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment with Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or with label claims against the coronavirus.

  • Practice sensible social distancing, maintaining six feet between co-workers and/or customers, where possible. Workplaces where social distancing is a challenge should consider innovative approaches, such as opening only every other cash register, temporarily moving workstations to create more distance, placing six-foot demarcations with floor tape, or installing Plexiglas partitions.

  • Where applicable, use a drive-through window or curb-side pick-up.

  • Provide workers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles. For mobile workforces, like package delivery workers or rideshare, taxi, and car service workers, OSHA recommends the use of approved cleaning chemicals and disposable towels workers can use to clean surfaces and vehicle interiors.

  • Promote personal hygiene and proper respiratory etiquette, or train workers in proper hygiene practices and the use of workplace controls.

  • Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.

  • If the nature of the work requires protective clothing or equipment, train workers on how to properly don, doff, and use or wear the protective gear.

  • Discourage sharing of tools and equipment, where applicable. If equipment must be shared, provide and instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use.

  • Encourage workers to report and safety and health concerns.

We will continue to monitor for additional guidance from all relevant agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here to read more from our Coronavirus series.

[1]   In addition to this general manufacturing guidance, on May 12, 2020, OSHA and the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) issued joint-interim guidance for manufacturing workers and employers. Manufacturing employers should critically review this detailed guidance.

[2]   See note 1, supra, regarding joint OSHA and CDC guidance pertaining to manufacturing workers and employers. See also OSHA and CDC’s joint guidance on meat and poultry processing workers and employers.

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Employment Law

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Leslie L. Abbott

Partner, Employment Law Department

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Sara B. Tomezsko

Partner, Employment Law Department

Image: Carson H. Sullivan
Carson H. Sullivan

Partner, Employment Law Department

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