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OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

The Occupational Safety Health Administration has published a Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. The guidance focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE). OSHA authored this COVID-19 planning guidance based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices.

A few highlighted points we’d like to share from the guidance document include implementing workplace controls and engineering controls.

Implement Workplace Controls

Occupational safety and health professionals use a framework called the “hierarchy of controls” to select ways of controlling workplace hazards. According to OSHA, the “best way to control a hazard is to systematically remove it from the workplace, rather than relying on workers to reduce their exposure.”

The guidance document states that during a COVID-19 outbreak, when it may not be possible to eliminate the hazard, the most effective protection measures are (listed from most effective to least effective):

  • Engineering controls,

  • Administrative controls,

  • Safe work practices (a type of administrative control), and

  • PPE

Each control measure has advantages and disadvantages when considering the ease of implementation, effectiveness, and cost. A combination of control measures for most cases will be necessary to protect workers from exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls involve isolating employees from work-related hazards. In workplaces where they are appropriate, these types of controls reduce exposure to hazards without relying on worker behavior and can be the most cost-effective solution to implement. Engineering controls for SARS-CoV-2 include:

■ Installing high-efficiency air filters.

■ Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment.

■ Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.

CFR Environmental works with industry to serve as their in-house environmental, health and safety (EHS) consultant. Contact CFR to learn more about how we can help meet your OSHA obligations and assist your company with workplace health and safety.