By Brad Sant, senior vice president of safety & education, ARTBA

In its first action under the Biden administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Jan. 29 released new guidance to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace

OSHA says the guidance is “intended to inform employers and workers in most workplace settings . . .  to help them identify risks of being exposed to and/or contracting COVID-19 at work and to help them determine appropriate control measures to implement.”

The guidance does not contain any new regulatory standards. Rather, it emphasizes worker rights and protections, including:

  • adopting non-punitive absence policies that allow potentially infected workers to stay home;

  • communicating policies and procedures in plain language; and

  • implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise concerns about COVID-19.

The guidance also includes details on key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19, such as removing potentially infected people from the workplace, implementing physical distancing, installing barriers, and using face masks. It also provides advice on using personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, good hygiene, and routine cleaning.

In a departure from the industry-specific guidance issued by the Trump administration, this information is aimed at all industries except healthcare. The broad, industry-wide approach could signal that a potential new Emergency Temporary Standard for COVID-19 also may not be industry specific, as advocated by ARTBA.

ARTBA will continue to maintain a dialogue with OSHA on the most effective way for the transportation construction industry to ensure the safety of its workers during the COVID pandemic.