WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new guidance to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
The guidance states: “COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that is spread most commonly through respiratory droplets and particles produced when an infected person exhales, talks, vocalizes, sneezes, or coughs. COVID-19 is highly transmissible and can be spread by people who have no symptoms. Particles containing the virus can travel more than 6 feet, especially indoors, and can be spread by individuals who do not know they are infected.
“Employers should implement COVID-19 Prevention Programs in the workplace. The most effective programs engage workers and their union or other representatives in the program’s development, and include the following key elements: conducting a hazard assessment; identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace; adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace; and implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns.”
OSHA shared the following tips workers need to know:
• The best way to protect yourself is to stay far enough away from other people so that you are not breathing in particles produced by an infected person – generally at least 6 feet (about 2 arm lengths), although this is not a guarantee, especially in enclosed spaces or those with poor ventilation.
• Practice good personal hygiene and wash your hands often. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit. Monitor your health daily and be alert for COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID-19).
• Face coverings are simple barriers to help prevent your respiratory droplets or aerosols from reaching others. Not all face coverings are the same; the CDC recommends that face coverings be made of at least two layers of a tightly woven breathable fabric, such as cotton, and should not have exhalation valves or vents.
• The main function of wearing a face covering is to protect those around you, in case you are infected but not showing symptoms. Studies show that face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. Although not their primary value, studies also show that face coverings can reduce wearers’ risk of infection in certain circumstances, depending upon the face covering.
• You should wear a face covering even if you do not feel sick. This is because people with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms (asymptomatic) and those who are not yet showing symptoms (pre-symptomatic) can still spread the virus to other people.
• It is especially important to wear a face covering when you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart from others since COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another. But wearing a face covering does not eliminate the need for physical distancing or other control measures (e.g., hand washing).
• It is important to wear a face covering and remain physically distant from co-workers and customers even if you have been vaccinated because it is not known at this time how vaccination affects transmissibility.
• Many employers have established COVID-19 prevention programs that include a number of important steps to keep workers safe – including steps from telework to flexible schedules to personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings. Ask your employer about plans in your workplace.