OSHA Guidance on COVID-19 – Update from Manko Gold Katcher & Fox

March 17, 2020Jill Hyman KaplanMGKF Special Alert

At Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP, we are closely tracking developments relating to the novel coronavirus – now officially named COVID-19.  While some governmental agencies have temporarily suspended certain operations and functions or have employees working from home, other agencies are issuing new guidance in response to the current pandemic.  The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in particular, has provided guidance regarding the application of certain OSHA requirements to employees who are potentially exposed to the virus in the workplace.  In summary, OSHA’s guidance provides as follows:

  • COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties (and meets other general recording criteria – e.g., medical treatment beyond first-aid, days away from work, etc.).
  • Appropriate respiratory protection is required for all healthcare personnel providing direct care to COVID-19 patients. Due to the shortage in N95 respirators, respirators of equal or higher protection, such as N99 or N100, may be used. 
  • Until further notice, healthcare employers may change the method of fit testing from a destructive method (i.e., quantitative) to a non-destructive method (i.e., qualitative). OSHA will exercise enforcement discretion in not citing employers who suspend annual fit testing of N95 respirators to preserve the supply of such respirators as long as there is a good faith effort to comply with the other requirements of 29 CFR § 1910.134.
  • OSHA’s General Duty Clause applies to COVID-19 and requires employers to furnish each worker “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
  • While the Bloodborne Pathogens standard does not typically include respiratory secretions that may transmit COVID-19, the provisions of this standard offer a framework that may help control some sources of the virus.
  • Employers must protect workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection. If sanitizers and sterilizers with hazardous chemicals are used and employees are exposed, employers must comply with OSHA’s Hazard Communication, Personal Protective Equipment and potentially other applicable chemical standards.

Determining whether an employee has COVID-19 and whether their exposure was work-related is not a straightforward exercise at this time.  Testing kits continue to be in short supply and testing capabilities vary greatly with location.  Similarly, determining how best to protect your workers from potential exposure to COVID-19 involves certain constraints, such as employee privacy, limited PPE resources and limited availability of trained health and safety professionals.  Currently, it is also unclear whether COVID-19 should be viewed as a hazard that is likely to cause death or serious physical harm for most workers (although COVID-19 is fatal for some portion of those who contract the virus).

Consistent with recommendations made by public health officials, Manko Gold will be conducting the firm’s business remotely for the time being.  Please know that all of our firm’s professionals are easily accessible via direct dial to our office lines and via email, and that we are well positioned to deploy all of the firm’s resources during this period.  We will continue to communicate closely with our clients and will work to serve their needs in this challenging time.  In addition, we will continue to monitor regulatory and other developments that affect our clients’ operations.  We at Manko Gold are committed to keeping you fully informed and current on matters related to COVID-19 as they develop.  If we can in any way assist you in navigating these difficult times, please contact our offices at 484-430-5700 or Jill Kaplan directly at [email protected] or484-430-2315.