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HR Q&A: Are there new OSHA requirements regarding COVID-19?

Technically, no. OSHA’s new guidance is advisory in nature and creates no new legal obligations. However, one of President Biden’s first acts after being sworn in was to sign an Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety that directs OSHA to increase enforcement of existing agency standards and investigate whether a new standard for COVID-19 mitigation is needed. Given that, employers may want to consider the new guidelines a strong recommendation.

In a nutshell, OSHA recommends that employers and employees implement a COVID-19 prevention program that includes the following elements:
• Masks and social distancing
• A hazard assessment
• Measures to limit the spread of the virus
• Ways to identify (and send home) sick employees and policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers for staying home when sick
• Communication of coronavirus policies and procedures in both English and the primary language of non-English speaking workers
• Protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns

If you’re interested, you can learn more about the program here.

Answer from Kara, JD, SPHR:

Kara practiced employment law for five years and worked in Human Resources for several years prior to that. As an attorney, she worked on many wage and hour and discrimination claims in both state and federal court. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oregon State University and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.

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