The government agency overseeing workplace safety reminds employers to promote measures to protect workers and others from exposure to COVID and the risk of spreading the virus.
The holidays can be chaotic, particularly during challenging times like we’re currently experiencing. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent out a notice reminding employers about their responsibility to protect worker safety during the holidays.
According to OSHA, “employers must ensure that they train all workers to recognize and prevent job hazards and incorporate safe work practices to prevent exposure to the coronavirus. At the same time, employers must also familiarize themselves and comply with federal rules governing the payment of wages for temporary or seasonal workers.” The agency stressed that all employees should be trained on how to perform their jobs safely and how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Employers should inform new employees (and remind existing ones) about their entitlement to a safe workplace. Specifically, they have the right to:
- Receive workplace safety and health training in a language they understand.
- Work on machines that are safe.
- Receive required safety equipment such as gloves, masks, and/or goggles.
- Be protected from toxic chemicals, such as strong cleaning agents.
- Report an illness or injury related to unsafe practices at work.
- Review records of work-related illnesses or injuries.
- See results of efforts taken to uncover workplace hazards.
During the pandemic, it is not only important that workers have adequate access to masks, gowns, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE); they also must be trained to use these items safely and appropriately. This includes how to clean and store reusable masks and how to safely discard disposable PPE.
OSHA has issued more than 200 citations for COVID-related violations, with penalties totaling nearly $3,000,000. Most citations have been related to respiratory protection, recording/reporting occupational illness and injuries, and PPE.
Make sure department heads and managers know their roles and responsibilities regarding employee safety, particularly during a crisis. If they need or want additional training or resources, provide these promptly. Take a minute to recognize workers for their efforts to stay safe and protect residents and others from COVID and other infectious diseases.
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