OSHA has issued an enforcement guidance for construction employers to use for recording COVID-19 cases and another regarding it's onsite inspections. Both will only be in effect during the coronavirus public health pandemic per Construction Dive.
According to OSHA, employers must record a case if the employee's illness is diagnosed as COVID-19 and is work related.
One or more of the following criteria must also be met:
- Days away from work
- Restricted work or transfer to another job
- Medical treatment beyond first aid
- Loss of consciousness
- Diagnosis considered significant by a physician or other health care professional
OSHA has stated that in areas of the United States where there has been a decrease in the spread of COVID-19, it will return to its pre-pandemic inspection policy but will continue to prioritize coronavirus cases. Inspections can be done by phone, fax and rapid response where appropriate. Inspectors will take all necessary safety precautions when dealing with COVID-19 cases.
In areas where the levels of COVID-19 cases are still very high, OSHA will prioritize high-risk workplaces for onsite inspections.
Since it is very difficult to determine if an employee diagnosed with COVID-19 was exposed at work or elsewhere, the agency has gone into more detail about how employers should approach that determination.
Per OSHA, COVID-19 illnesses are work related if:
- Multiple cases develop among those who work closely together and there is no alternative explanation.
- An employee contracts the illness shortly after "lengthy and close" exposure to a customer or coworker who has a confirmed case of COVID-19 and there is no alternative explanation.
- Job duties include frequent, close exposure to the general public in a locality with ongoing community transmission and there is no alternative explanation.
Cases of COVID-19 are not work related if:
- An employee is the only employee in the work area to contract the illness and does not have frequent contact with the general public.
- An employee, outside the workplace, has frequent and close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and that person is not a coworker and likely exposed the employee while infectious.
An employer may not have to record the illness if after an extensive evaluation, the employer still can't come to a conclusion as to whether the case is work related.
The work-related requirements that OSHA had before still remain and the added clarification that a one-person infection is not likely to be work related is a new requirement. Employers also have some flexibility with the requirement if they make a reasonable determination based upon objective evidence available at the time.
According to OSHA.gov, the following tips can help reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in the construction industry:
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Allow workers to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent them from spreading the virus.
- Continue to use other normal control measures, including personal protective equipment, necessary to protect workers from other job hazards associated with construction activities.
- Advise workers to avoid physical contact with others and direct employees/contractors/visitors to increase personal space to at least six feet. Where work trailers are used, all workers should maintain social distancing while inside the trailers.
- Train workers how to properly put on, use/wear and take off protective clothing and equipment.
- Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Promote personal hygiene. If workers do not have access to soap and water for hand washing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Tools should be cleaned before and after use.
- Limit number of workers in attendance at meetings and use social distancing.
- Clean and disinfect portable job site toilets regularly and fill hand sanitizer dispensers. All frequently touched items should be disinfected.
- Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
Prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical step in protecting workers at a worksite.
Employers should inform and encourage employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 if they suspect possible exposure.
Editor's note: This is, indeed, a confusing time for the construction industry. DataBid is working tirelessly to report and distill the news that can help you and your company make the right decisions and keep you up to date on the constant changes as they are made. We hope our coverage brings some clarity amid all the confusion.
Posted by Judy Lamelza