OSHA’s General Duty clause allows citation of employers who do not properly protect employees from coronavirus disease exposure. The clause states that employers must provide places of employment “which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees…”
Failure to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as nitrile gloves or N-95 face masks, would be considered violations of this clause. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, PPE was virtually impossible to locate, and now that suppliers have kicked PPE production into high gear, supplies is once again available on nearly demand.
A General Duty Clause citation can be in the form of failure to ensure their workers were physically distanced at least 6 feet apart in the processing areas, failure to ensure the workers wore a face mask while in the facility, or failure to install plexiglass or other barriers between the workers. The General Duty Clause requires employers to ensure their workplace is free from all recognized hazards.
Facilities located in California must also follow the Cal-OSHA, Aerosol Transmissible Disease (ATD) standard, which requires proper respiratory protection in healthcare settings. Although there is currently no corresponding federal OSHA standard, if the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act) is passed into law, one of its sections includes the creation of a new “Infectious Disease” OSHA standard which would require all facilities to prepare an Infectious Disease Plan.
In addition to California, Governors in other OSHA-State Plan States, such as Michigan, Nevada, and Oregon, have instructed state workplace safety and health agencies to monitor employer compliance with the orders aimed to prevent surges in infections.
If you have questions on how to remains compliant with existing OSHA standards, or need more information on the Infectious Disease standard, please contact Mostardi Platt here, or reach out directly to David Osadjan.
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