The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued new guidance for construction companies returning to work amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The guidance begins with ways of measuring exposure risk levels for a job site. For instance, sites that allow employees to remain 6 feet apart and involve little contact with others are assessed as “lower” risk, while indoor work sites occupied by people and other workers are considered “medium” risk. Indoor work sites with an occupant reporting signs and symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as “high” risk.
For the “high” risk indoor work sites, OSHA recommends using closed doors and walls or erecting a plastic sheeting barrier wherever feasible to separate workers from individuals suspected of having or known to have had COVID-19. OSHA also advises training employees on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and in how it spreads.
Aside from social distancing, the guidelines state to practice appropriate cleaning practices and “washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or, if soap and water are not immediately available, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rubbing hands until they are dry and sanitizing all surfaces workers will touch.”
Workers are also encouraged to wear masks over their nose and mouth to prevent the spreading of the virus, but notes that cloth face coverings are not a substitute for PPE and should not be used for construction-related tasks that require PPE such as respirators.
The full OSHA guidance, which is not mandatory, can be found here.
In other COVID-19 news, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also recently clarified that employers are prohibited from requiring employees to be tested for COVID-19 antibodies, according to the World Floor Covering Association.
Testing for COVID-19 antibodies amounts to a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as it constitutes a medical examination, according to the EEOC.
Antibody test results “should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace,” and antibody tests do not meet the ADA’s “job related and consistent with business necessity.”
Employers may still test employees for active cases of COVID-19 (a viral test).