Though COVID-19 is still around and active, workers have been receiving vaccines, and many offices are allowing employees to return to work. Still, it’s important to take safety precautions and help contain the spread of this dangerous virus to other, non-vaccinated people—especially those at high risk.
The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) has issued guidance on preparing your workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Per OSHA, “this guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations, as well as descriptions, of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist the employer in providing a safe and healthful workplace.” For regulations and mandates in your area for COVID-19 protocols, consult your state and local authorities.
Providing personal protective equipment (PPE)
Beyond the standard recommendations for social distancing and deep cleaning and sanitizing, OSHA recommends the use of PPE for all employees. PPE includes gloves, face masks, face shields, and goggles, when applicable. The level of PPE employees should use depends on their classification as low, medium, high, or very high risk of being exposed to COVID-19 during their workday.
Employee risk classification and recommended PPE
Employees in the following risk groups should use PPE as described below:
- Very high exposure risk. Employees in this group include health care workers performing “aerosol generating procedures,” such as intubation, bronchoscopies, or dental procedures; health care or lab personnel collecting COVID-19 specimens; morgue workers performing autopsies on people suspected to have had COVID-19. Employees in this group should use gloves, a gown, a face shield or goggles, and either a face mask or respirator. Other safety precautions are listed in the OSHA guide.
- High exposure risk. Employees at this risk level include health care delivery and support staff exposed to COVID-19 patients or their treatment rooms; medical transport workers, such as ambulance drivers; and mortuary workers involved in preparing bodies of people who had COVID-19. Employees in this group should follow the same PPE recommendations as for the very high-risk group.
- Medium exposure risk. Employees at medium risk include those whose jobs place them in frequent or close contact (within six feet) of people who could potentially have COVID-19. This includes workers in frequent contact with travelers returning from international locations, or people in contact with the general public in schools, environments with a high population density, and some retail settings. These employees should use any combination of gloves, a gown, a face mask, and/or face shield or goggles.
- Lower exposure risk. Employees at lower risk of COVID-19 infection includes those likely not exposed to the virus, including work-at-home employees. There is no recommended PPE for these employees to perform their jobs.
Guidance for risk management
COVID-19 is just one of the risks faced by employers. If you’re concerned with risk management, let Odell Studner help. We specialize in helping companies take action to reduce risk, accelerate growth and increase profitability. To learn more, contact us today!