OSHA Workplace Guidelines
and Safety for COVID-19

Occupational Safety and Health Act

This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.

Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of Exposure to SARS-CoV-2

This COVID-19 planning guidance is based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices and focuses on work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE).

This guidance helps identify risk levels in workplace settings and determine appropriate control measures.
The CDC provides the latest information about COVID-19 and the global outbreak: More Info
The OSHA COVID-19 webpage offers information specifically for workers and employers: More Info

Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of Exposure to SARS-CoV-2

This section describes basic steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in their workplace

Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan

If one does not already exist, develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19. Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites. Such considerations may include:

  • Where, how, and to what sources of SARS-CoV-2 might workers be exposed, including:
    • The general public, customers, and coworkers; and
    • Sick individuals or those at particularly high risk of infection (e.g., international travelers who have visited locations with widespread sustained (ongoing) COVID-19 transmission, healthcare workers who have had unprotected exposures to people known to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19).
  • Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
  • Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., older age; presence of chronic medical conditions, including immunocompromising conditions; pregnancy).
  • Controls necessary to address those risks.
  • Follow federal and state, local, tribal, and/or territorial (SLTT) recommendations regarding development of contingency plans for situations that may arise as a result of outbreaks, such as:
    • Increased rates of worker absenteeism.
    • The need for social distancing, staggered work shifts, downsizing operations, delivering services remotely, and other exposure-reducing measures.
    • Options for conducting essential operations with a reduced workforce, including cross-training workers across different jobs in order to continue operations or deliver surge services.
    • Interrupted supply chains or delayed deliveries.
    • Plans should also consider and address the other steps that employers can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in their workplace, described in the sections below

Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures

    For most employers, protecting workers will depend on emphasizing basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including:
  • Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment.
  • When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should consult information on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, PPE).

Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People, if Appropriate

    Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers, customers, visitors, and others at a worksite.
  • Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.
  • Employers should develop policies and procedures for employees to report when they are sick or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Where appropriate, employers should develop policies and procedures for immediately isolating people who have signs and/or symptoms of COVID-19, and train workers to implement them. Move potentially infectious people to a location away from workers, customers, and other visitors. Although most worksites do not have specific isolation rooms, designated areas with closable doors may serve as isolation rooms until potentially sick people can be removed from the worksite.
  • Take steps to limit spread of the respiratory secretions of a person who may have COVID-19. Provide a face mask, if feasible and available, and ask the person to wear it, if tolerated. Note: A face mask (also called a surgical mask, procedure mask, or other similar terms) on a patient or other sick person should not be confused with PPE for a worker; the mask acts to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions at the source (i.e., the person’s nose and mouth).
  • If possible, isolate people suspected of having COVID-19 separately from those with confirmed cases of the virus to prevent further transmission—particularly in worksites where medical screening, triage, or healthcare activities occur, using either permanent (e.g., wall/different room) or temporary barrier (e.g., plastic sheeting).
  • Restrict the number of personnel entering isolation areas.
  • Protect workers in close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) a sick person or who have prolonged/repeated contact with such persons by using additional engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE. Workers whose activities involve close or prolonged/ repeated contact with sick people are addressed further in later sections covering workplaces classified at medium and very high or high exposure risk.

Classifying Workers Exposure to SARS-CoV-2

Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People, if appropriate

High or very high exposure risk jobs are those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19. Workers in this category include Healthcare delivery and support staff, medical transport workers, and mortuary workers.

  • Engineering Controls:Ensure appropriate air-handling systems are installed and maintained in healthcare facilities. See “Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Healthcare Facilities” for more recommendations on air handling systems at here
  • Administrative Controls:Develop and implement policies that reduce exposure, such as cohorting (i.e., grouping) COVID-19 patients when single rooms are not available. Post signs requesting patients and family members to immediately report symptoms of respiratory illness on arrival at the healthcare facility and use disposable face masks. Consider offering enhanced medical monitoring of workers during COVID-19 outbreaks. Provide all workers with job-specific education and training on preventing transmission of COVID-19, including initial and routine/refresher training. Ensure that psychological and behavioral support is available to address employee stress.
  • Safe Work Practices:Provide emergency responders and other essential personnel who may be exposed while working away from fixed facilities with alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol for decontamination in the field.
  • Personal Protective Equipment:Most workers at high or very high exposure risk likely need to wear gloves, a gown, a face shield or goggles, and either a face mask or a respirator, depending on their job tasks and exposure risks.

Medium exposure risk jobs include those that require frequent and/or close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) people who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2, but who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients. This category includes schools and all other high-population-density work environments.

  • Engineering Controls:Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, where feasible.
  • Administrative Controls:Consider offering face masks to ill employees and customers to contain respiratory secretions until they are able leave the workplace (i.e., for medical evaluation/care or to return home).
  • Personal Protective Equipment:When selecting PPE, consider factors such as function, fit, decontamination ability, disposal, and cost. Sometimes, when PPE will have to be used repeatedly for a long period of time, a more expensive and durable type of PPE may be less expensive overall than disposable PPE.

Lower exposure risk (caution) jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2 nor frequent close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) the general public. This category includes workers who have minimal contact with the public and other coworkers.

  • Engineering Controls:Additional engineering controls are not recommended for workers in the lower exposure risk group.
  • Administrative Controls:Collaborate with workers to designate effective means of communicating important COVID-19 information.
  • Personal Protective Equipment:Additional PPE is not recommended for workers in the lower exposure risk group.

VisitOSHA’s page on COVID-19 for more pandemic guidance from the agency.

Source:
“GUIDANCE ON PREPARING WORKPLACES FOR COVID-19.” OSHA Publications | Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, Mar. 2020, www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf.