OSHA Suggestions Regarding Coronavirus

You are all no doubt aware that OSHA does not yet have a specific standard addressing viral pandemics. Rather, the General Duty Clause will be applied to this situation.  The GDC requires that “Each employer shall furnish each of [its] employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees.”

Despite the wording of the GDC, it does not make employers absolute guarantors that their employees will not be injured or exposed to hazards on the job. Rather, OSHA must prove four elements in order to establish a violation of the GDC. One of those elements is that the employer failed to implement feasible and useful methods to correct the hazard.

OSHA recently issued “Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus.” You can find it here: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3994.pdf . Most of these are common-sense steps that we are familiar with. OSHA may construe a failure to follow these ten steps as a failure to implement “feasible and useful methods to correct the hazard” should an employee contract the virus in your workplace.

If you are not already doing so, I would suggest that you strongly consider implementing as many of the ten steps recommended by OSHA as possible, and that you maintain records showing that you were aware of OSHA’s recommendations and followed them. Complying with the recommendations is not enough; you must be able to prove that you did so.

As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.

Stay safe.

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