Today we want to briefly discuss a few key regulatory requirements that companies who continue to operate during the pandemic need to be aware of and emphasize the importance of keeping up with these requirements to not only help protect your most valuable asset, your employees, from harm, but also to protect your company from related risks including potential civil liability as well as the risk of an outbreak within your company which could ultimately lead to a shutdown, among other problems.
We can’t over emphasize that the longer this pandemic continues, and the longer that companies continue to operate, the more critical it becomes for employers to manage and keep up with these requirements.
Ok, so we’ve all heard about the general CDC guidance that talks about public health and safety issues, but there are 3 very some specific occupational health and safety requirements that employers need to be aware of, and these requirements come from OSHA, CDC as well as the City of Austin in their Stay-At-Home-Order.
Let’s start off with OSHA, and there are 3 a couple standards issues that you need to be aware of.
Number one is OSHA’s General Duty Clause. The General Duty Clause is a “catch-all” for all occupational health and safety hazards that aren’t included in OSHA’s existing laws & standards.
It requires that employers assess their workplace to identify, control and mitigate any and all “recognized health and safety hazards.” And here’s the key point, for employers who continue to operate during the pandemic, OSHA considers the potential exposure to COVID-19 should be interpreted as a “recognized hazard.”
And once this “recognized hazard” has been identified, then employers must take additional steps to control it, and most of these steps can be addressed by developing an infection control plan Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan, which we’ll talk more about in a minute.
Before moving on, just be aware that depending on your risk levels and control measures, you may trigger other OSHA standards that you may be typically applicable to your operations. These would be related to the Bloodborne Pathogen, Respiratory Protection and Personal Protective Equipment standards. there are 2 other OSHA standard which apply under the General Duty clause requirements: their Personal Protection Equipment, or “PPE” standard, which includes providing PPE such as gloves and respirators and training in proper use, but also elements of their Bloodborne Pathogens standard which we don’t have time to get into today.
The other major OSHA requirement that you need to be aware of is the fact that all work related COVID-19 infections at your company must be tracked and recorded on your OSHA 300 injury and illness logs. And keep in mind that as manufacturers, you’ll actually need to electronically submit these logs to OSHA at the end of the year so they’ll have record of all of your workplace exposures.
Austin, Texas “Stay Home – Work Safe” Order, Employer Requirements:
Beyond these requirements, OSHA largely defers to CDC when it comes to individual preventative measures. and other agencies, including We also have state and local governments which may add another layer of requirements. This leads us to the last major regulatory requirement you need to be aware of which is included in the City of Austin’s “Stay Home – Work Safe” order.
The requirement is included in Exhibit B, Section 4, under “Requirements for Employers.”
The requirement reads as follows: Employers Shall Create and Implement An Infectious Disease Response Plan.
The plan is largely based on OSHA/CDC requirements guidance and it’s impossible to cover all of the requirements in detail during this call, but here’s a brief summary of the major requirements:
- Perform a business risk assessment that looks at all risks the company can face during a pandemic. You may already be feeling two major impacts with this Pandemic, an increase in absenteeism and interrupted supply chain. However, there are some considerations operating businesses should be considering as these conditions continue. How else will the business be impacted. Even simple things like soap, towels, disinfectant are in short supply. These are items needed to meet the basic level of prevention.
- Identify employee task risk categories. This is used to establish your workplace control measures. Not all employees may carry the same exposure risks. OSHA has identified 4 levels of exposure risks from Very High to Low or Caution. You should also be including employees that have to travel.
- Identify and implement workplace control measures. This is where Engineering controls are considered. Some examples could be changes to ventilation systems, use of barriers, changes to customer/visitor flow. What administrative controls you will implement, such as your flexible sick policies and other administrative actions you could be taking. This would be an employee education program to help minimize confusion employees may be getting from various sources. You would also identify any additional personal protective equipment. Of course the most common are face masks and gloves. There could be other types of PPE you may select as well. As I mentioned earlier, requiring the wearing of specific PPE may trigger implementation of certain OSHA standards.
- Basic preventative measures that would apply to all risk categories. This is mainly the CDC guidance we all have been following.
So as you can see, there are lots of requirements and in order to help the business community get a better understanding of these requirements, we are hosting an ongoing seminar called:
How To Implement & Manage A Coronavirus/COVID-19 Infection Control Plan