On May 27, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, refreshed its guidance for employers within the construction province. Though not legally binding, contractors are strongly encouraged to follow these recommendations when modifying their current workplace environment to mirror the health and safety standards set by the local, state, and federal government. The OSHA guidance highlights which measures are required by the Occupational Safety Health Act’s General Duty Clause as well as what workers could expect their employers to do as their teams come back to work. Below are recommendations employers in the construction industry should consider.
COVID-19 Training for Construction Employees. OSHA suggests that construction workers be trained on coronavirus-related topics, like:
- Social distancing and hygiene rules;
- Spotting symptoms and signs of the virus;
- How the disease spreads, as well as how infected individuals can be asymptomatic and still spread the virus;
- The importance of staying home if sick; and
- The use of PPE.
The amount of training for each job site will depend on the level of risk involved. OSHA requests indoor worksites be given a broader amount of training on the virus.
Risk-Level Consideration. OSHA instructs that employers reviewing hazards, assess risks, and enacting controls based on the four different levels of exposure risk the organization have utilized for all COVID-19-related recommendations and guidance. Most prominently, OSHA states that the “Very High” risk level is “not applicable for most anticipated work tasks” in the industry. The “High” risk level is for activities requesting employees to work in “an indoor site occupied by people like customers, other workers, or residents suspected of having or known to have COVID-19” such as nursing homes or various other healthcare facilities. The “Medium” risk level is for “tasks requiring employees to maintain a 6 feet distance from one another” or “visitors, customers, or members of the public.” The “Lower” risk level discusses activities that “allow employees to remain a minimum of 6 feet separate and have little contact with customers, visitors, or the public.”
Indoor Construction Settings with High Risk of Exposure. OSHA emphasizes that construction employers should promote engineering controls so workers are not required to have N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment (PPE). An instance of this includes “water delivery or dust collection systems that will further reduce ambient dust when cutting, breaking, jack-hammering, or drilling.” However, OSHA does not recommend this for outside construction settings or indoor settings with high risk of exposure. Regarding administrative controls, OSHA tells employers to utilize queries for screening work assignments when scheduling indoor construction activities to examine possible exposures and circumstances” before allowing workers to enter the building. To learn more about these recommendations, read OSHA’s official guidance here.
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