New OSHA Guidance For Returning to Work

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released new guidance to help employers bring employees back to work. The guidance creates no new legal obligations for employers but does contain recommendations intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthy workforce. Remember that employees who adhere to these guidelines or raise workplace safety and health concerns are protected from retaliation:

  • Infection prevention and hygiene: The guidance focuses on employers implementing strategies for hand hygiene, cleaning, and disinfection, social distancing, identifying and isolating sick employees, workplace controls and flexibilities, and employee training.
  • Stay-at-home orders: As businesses reopen as state and local governments allow, they should follow CDC public health recommendations and other federal requirements or guidelines.
  • Workplace flexibility: Employers should continue to look for remote work and options for alternative business operations that still meet customers’ needs.
  • COVID-19 screening: Though employers may test for the virus, OSHA stresses that current testing has limitations. Employers should still act cautiously since negative test results do not mean that the employee won’t infect others in the workplace.
  • Temperature checking: Since asymptomatic individuals may spread the virus, OSHA advises that employees self-monitor and temperature check at home and stay home if they have a fever or other symptoms, rather than employers directly checking employees when they arrive at work.
  • Record keeping: Employers who choose not to document temperatures can simply acknowledge the temperature reading in real-time and not record the results. However, many employers are choosing to document temperatures to show they are following the guidelines or to comply with state or local orders. In this case, the records need to be kept confidential.
  • Tester protections. Those administering temperature checks, or other in-person health screening, must be protected from exposure to COVID-19, including engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and PPE. Testing involving saliva or nasal or oral cavity swabbing would not typically fall under the Bloodborne Pathogens standard, although testing that involves drawing blood would be subject to that standard.

OSHA’s coronavirus webpage is updated frequently, and we review those updates regularly. If we can provide additional information, please contact us.