COVID-19 UPDATE: Latest OSHA Safety Tips for the Construction Industry, And Your Safety PlanMay 06, 2020
OSHA wants all employers to familiarize themselves with the general guidance for all employers that is available at the OSHA website. But the federal government is also providing additional guidance — coming from OSHA, the Department of Labor, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the US Department of Health and Human Services — to help employers in different industries maintain safe workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tips for Construction Employers
For the construction industry, this guidance is presented as a list of “tips to help reduce the exposure to the coronavirus.” It includes a dozen suggestions, including:
- Allowing employees to wear masks
- Workforce training about COVID-19 precautions
- Minimizing in-person meetings
- Encouraging workers to stay home if sick
- Social distancing
- Using the appropriate OSHA-approved disinfectants (List N) to clean work surfaces, tools, controls, etc.
Similar guidance has recently been published for retail employers and package delivery service companies.
None of this guidance is mandatory, and therefore implementation is inconsistent. From a legal perspective, particularly with the ongoing murkiness about what’s safe and what’s not, it is highly recommended that employers develop their own COVID-19 policies, and implement them. These policies should respond to and reflect the guidance that OSHA and other government agencies have provided to date.
Developing COVID-19 Policies
The government’s general guidance for employers, and the more recent one-page “tips for the construction industry” guidance, are helpful starting places for developing your own company’s internal guidance on these issues.
Construction employers should consider:
- Developing policies and implementing procedures to facilitate the prompt identification and isolation of sick employees. These policies might include daily screenings — including a temperature check — before entering a job site.
- Communicating regularly with employees about workplace protections and expectations. If you are a general contractor, you should not only have an articulated COVID-19 policy, but you should also require your subcontractors to have one, too.
- Develop and implement workplace controls — personal protection equipment (PPE), physical distancing, and other practices like limiting in-person meetings, and encouraging sick people to stay home, etc.
Some Things Change and Some Things Don’t
You should also know that what’s most important to do now may change in a few weeks or months. The national guidance concerning COVID-19 protection in the workplace is evolving every day, as we learn more about the virus, how it behaves, and how to fight it.
In the meantime, it remains your responsibility, as an employer, to keep your employees safe — and to ensure that the job site is safe.
For construction industry employers who are involved in federal work, you’ll likely get asked about your COVID-19 policies at some point down the road, and having something in place will make that part of the conversation go much more smoothly.
As always, contact me if you have any questions about the evolving changes in OSHA’s COVID-19 guidance and how to protect your workforce — and your business — amidst all this uncertainty.
About the Author: James Laboe