Newsletters and Alerts: Employment Alert

OSHA Alert: June 24, 2020 Employer Guidance On COVID-19 including Cloth Face Coverings

Wednesday, June 24, 2020  
Posted by: UEA
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OSHA Alert: June 24, 2020

Employer Guidance On COVID-19
including Cloth Face Coverings
As businesses re-open while COVID-19 cases surge in some areas, OSHA has released new FAQ’s outlining the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks, and respirators as well as guidance for returning to work.

Since early April, the CDC has been recommending that people wear face masks or cloth face coverings when they go out in public, particularly when they are unable to maintain the social distancing guideline of 6 feet. Some workplaces have adopted this recommendation as well, but as we noted in an earlier Alert, face masks are only one aspect of the controls needed to maintain a safe workplace. Read more about OSHA’s hierarchy of controls and their application to COVID-19 here.

A number of states have mandated the use of face masks while at businesses, and both Oregon and Washington requirements for face masks are based on the type of business.

Below we outline the primary considerations for employers surrounding face coverings and include recent COVID-19 related guidance from Oregon and Washington State's OSHA Programs, as well as federal OSHA guidelines.

Please Note: Guidelines continue to evolve, so please continue to check your state's OSHA Program website for the most updated information.
Governor Brown recently announced that all Oregonians will be required to wear face coverings while in indoor public spaces, such as grocery stores and other businesses, for the following counties: Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Marion, Polk, and Lincoln.

This mandate is effective beginning Wednesday, June 24.
Oregon OSHA has provided guidance on the use of face masks based on the type of business, but a number of industries are not addressed in their rules. 

The businesses affected by the rules include :
  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness-related organizations
  • Indoor and outdoor entertainment facility operators
  • Licensed swimming pool, licensed spa pool and sports court operators
  • Outdoor recreation organizations
  • Pharmacies
  • Public transit agencies and providers
  • Personal services providers
  • Restaurants, bars, breweries, brewpubs, wineries, tasting rooms and distilleries
  • Retail stores, shopping centers and malls
  • Ride sharing services
  • School aged summertime day camp operators
  • Recreational sports operators for specified sports
  • Venue operators
  
Full details on the requirements for these businesses can be found here.
 
For industries not specifically addressed in the document linked above, employers should follow Federal OSHA guidelines. These are described below. In addition, businesses that require customers or visitors to wear face masks or coverings must develop a policy and post clear signs about the requirements.
 
Click here to read more about OR OSHA’s COVID-19 specific requirements for safety committee and training requirements.
Yesterday, Governor Inslee announced a statewide order that requires individuals to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices, and restaurants. The order also requires face coverings outdoors when you can't stay 6 feet apart from others. 

These guidelines are effective beginning on Friday, June 26.

Earlier this month, the Governor issued the requirement that all employees not working alone in an office or vehicle, must wear a cloth facial covering, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under Department of Labor & Industries safety and health rules guidance.
 
Washington’s DOSH also provided guidance on the use of face masks based on the type of business and classifies businesses as Negligible, Low, Medium, High, or Extremely High Risk. Employers should be aware of which type of business they are classified as and respond accordingly.
 
Under the requirements, employers must provide the face coverings and masks to employees at no charge. Workers can bring their own face coverings and masks as well, as long as they meet requirements. There are a number of exceptions to the face mask rule, including for those that work alone in an office, workers that are deaf or hard of hearing that rely on facial expressions, as well as those with health and disability accommodations.
 
Click here to read more on Washington’s guidance for businesses.
OSHA produced an FAQ about face coverings to assist facilities governed under the Federal OSHA system. You can access the full FAQ here, and we have included the main points you and your managers should be aware of below:

You can read OSHA's Guidance for Returning to Work here.
 
Are employers required to provide cloth face coverings to workers?
  • Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. As such, OSHA's PPE standards do not require employers to provide them.
  • Employers may choose to ensure that cloth face coverings are worn as a feasible means of abatement in a control plan designed to address hazards from COVID-19 in locations where transmission risk that cannot be controlled through engineering or administrative controls, including social distancing.
Should workers wear a cloth face covering while at work, in accordance with the CDC  recommendation for all people to do so when in public?
  • OSHA generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work to decrease the chance that asymptomatic wearers spread potentially infectious respiratory droplets to others. 
  • Employers have the discretion to determine whether to allow employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace based on the specific circumstances present at the work site.
    • Cloth face coverings could become contaminated with chemicals used in the work environment, causing workers to inhale the chemicals that collect on the face covering.
    • Cloth face coverings might also become damp (from workers breathing) or collect infectious material from the work environment (e.g., droplets of other peoples' infectious respiratory secretions).
    • Cloth face coverings might be incompatible with other PPE required for the worker (e.g., an N95 filtering facepiece respirator).
If I wear a reusable cloth face covering, how should I keep it clean?
  • OSHA suggests following CDC recommendations, as well as washing or discarding cloth face coverings that are visibly soiled.

Contact us for more information about these new changes at EmployerHelpline@UnitedEmployers.org or 503.595.2170


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