The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new COVID-19 alert specific to the construction industry. The stated purpose of the alert is to provide “tips” to contractors, and others in the construction industry, to reduce potential exposure of construction workers to the coronavirus. Since employers are subject to OSHA citations under the “general duty” clause for failing to adequately protect employees from communicable diseases, including COVID-19, these “tips” should be considered a mandatory part of any safety plan. To reduce the risk of exposure to coronavirus, OSHA “suggests” employers:
- 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 (PPE), 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 possible. Where work trailers are used, all workers should maintain social distancing while inside the trailers.
- Train workers on 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 immediate access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Use Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning chemicals from List N or that have label claims against the coronavirus.
- To the extent tools or equipment must be shared, provide, and instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use. When cleaning tools and equipment, workers should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper cleaning techniques and restrictions.
- Keep in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limit the number of workers in attendance, and use social distancing practices.
- Clean and disinfect portable job site toilets regularly. Hand sanitizer dispensers should be filled regularly. Frequently touched items (i.e., door pulls and toilet seats) should be disinfected.
- Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
Construction industry employers should review their current safety plans to make certain the foregoing items are addressed. Employers should consult with their legal counsel if questions arise.