The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) last week provided a list of safety tips for employers to help protect construction workers from exposure to COVID-19. OSHA’s latest guidance encourages employers in the construction industry to allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth, as well as training workers on how to properly wear and use protective clothing and equipment.
Other key measures suggested by OSHA include encouraging workers to stay home if they are sick and to report any health and safety concerns they may have to the employer. Employees, contractors, and visitors should be instructed to stay six feet apart on site whenever possible. In addition, if work trailers are used then workers should practice social distancing while inside the trailers.
Employers are also advised to provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer and use approved cleaning chemicals to disinfect sites.
Last week’s guidance is OSHA’s latest effort to provide safety advice that is more tailored toward specific industries during the pandemic. OSHA has previously issued advice for manufacturing, pharmacy, retail, and delivery workers, building on its earlier and more generic bulletins listing steps employers generally should take in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In mid-April, OSHA issued a temporary enforcement plan to its field offices to guide them in handling coronavirus-related workplace safety incidents. This plan detailed how regional offices and on-site inspectors can assess a workplace’s COVID-19 risk level, and advised that field officers should be trained to identify workers likely to have COVID-19.
To date, OSHA has primarily focused its compliance efforts on issuing advice rather than imposing new legal obligations on employers, despite the pleas of some members of Congress to seek additional worker protections and penalties against employers beyond the requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act.