OSHA just issued new guidance on returning to work. But is it any good?


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Last week, OSHA issued some guidance on wearing masks in the workplace. It was kinda vague and underwhelming. Yesterday, OSHA came back with additional guidance on returning to work.  Is it any better than OSHA’s last offering?

Let’s find out.

We begin with a refresher course on the White House Guidelines for Opening Up American Again.

The latest OSHA guidance begins with a rehash of the three-phase White House Guidelines for Opening Up American Again. Been there; done that. I’ll wait patiently while you refresh your recollection.

The nine “guiding principles” for re-opening plans.

OSHA stresses that 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. Nine guiding principles should, err, guide your business:

  1. Hazard assessment
  2. Hygiene
  3. Social distancing
  4. Identification and isolation of sick employees
  5. Return to work after illness or exposure
  6. Controls (engineering and administrative) and providing PPE to protect workers
  7. Workplace flexibilities (think: telework)
  8. Training
  9. Anti-retaliation

All of this pretty much speaks for itself. But, if you want details for any of the nine, click here.

Answers to FAQs.

We’ve got that here too in the new OSHA guidance, although the Q&A seems a bit dated. For example, OSHA answers questions about whether employers conduct COVID-19, temperature checks, and other health screening at work?

TL;DR: Yes.

Although, here’s something interesting:

If an employer implements health screening or temperature checks and chooses to create records of this information, those records might qualify as medical records under the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records standard (29 CFR 1910.1020). The employer would then be required to retain these records for the duration of each worker’s employment plus 30 years and follow confidentiality requirements.

Show of hands, from this day forward, how many of you are creating records of employee health screening or temperature checks?

So, is the new guidance any good?

It’s a decent starting point.

Your better bet is to stay updated on the state and local stuff. Many states and localities have actual requirements for re-opening, which you can generally find on state and local government websites. The OSHA stuff I’ve summarized here is not a standard or regulation or law. It’s not a “have to,” it’s a “may do” or “should do,” but not a “must do.”

Just remember that there are other OSHA rules with which your business must comply, including the Act’s General Duty Clause.

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