SALEM, Ore. — A temporary rule recently adopted by Oregon OSHA puts in place a more comprehensive set of measures intended to reduce the spread of coronavirus at workplaces, the agency announced on Friday.
The rule takes effect on November 16 and is expected to last until May 4 of 2021. OSHA said that the rule is a "continuation" of existing Oregon Health Authority guidance, enforced by OSHA, that includes physical distancing, use of face coverings, and sanitation.
“We believe compliance with this rule will help reduce the serious threat to workers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “It does so by establishing a clear, practical, and consistent set of measures for employers.”
The rule now requires that businesses notify employees of a workplace infection, and requires that they provide training on how to reduce risks. Employers must also assess the risk of exposure, develop infection control plans, and address indoor air quality.
"Those measures – along with more requirements for exceptionally high-risk jobs, such as direct patient care – are part of Oregon OSHA’s ongoing enforcement and educational efforts to help protect workers from the coronavirus disease," the agency said in a statement.
OSHA says that it began developing the rule back in June through upwards of a dozen virtual forums on specific issues and industries, then developed a series of four drafts. Each draft included changes proposed by either employers or worker representatives, plus public feedback.
"Adoption of the temporary rule brings the requirements within the existing rulemaking authority of the Oregon Safe Employment Act," OSHA said. "The law governs workplace safety and health in Oregon, including protections for a worker’s right to raise on-the-job health and safety concerns free from retaliation."
OSHA says that it will provide resources for both businesses and workers to understand the requirements.
According to the agency, the temporary rule includes the following stipulations:
- Employers must ensure six-foot distancing between all people in the workplace through design of work activities and workflow, unless it can be shown it is not feasible for some activities.
Masks, face covering, or face shields
- Employers must ensure that all individuals – including employees, part-time workers and customers – at the workplace, or other establishment under the employer’s control, wear a mask, face covering, or face shield in line with the Oregon Health Authority’s statewide guidance.
- Employers must provide masks, face coverings, or face shields for employees free of cost.
- If an employee chooses to wear a mask, face shield, or face covering – even when it is not required – the employer must allow them to do so.
- When employees are transported in a vehicle for work-related purposes, regardless of the travel distance or duration, all people inside the vehicle must wear a mask, face covering, or face shield. This requirement does not apply when all people in the vehicle are members of the same household.
- Employers must maximize the effectiveness of existing ventilation systems, maintain and replace air filters, and clean intake ports providing fresh or outdoor air. The temporary rule does not require employers to purchase or install new ventilation systems.
Exposure risk assessment
- Employers must conduct a risk assessment – a process that must involve participation and feedback from employees – to gauge potential employee exposure to COVID-19, including addressing specific questions about how to minimize such exposure.
Infection control plan
- Employers must develop an infection control plan addressing several elements, including when workers must use personal protective equipment and a description of specific hazard controls.
Information and training
- Employers must provide information and training to workers about the relevant topics related to COVID-19. They must do so in a manner and language understood by workers.
Notification, testing, medical removal
- Employers must notify affected workers within 24 hours of a work-related COVID-19 infection.
- Employers must cooperate with public health officials if testing within the workplace is necessary.
- If an employee must quarantine or isolate, the employer must follow proper work reassignment and return-to-work steps.
The rule requires more measures for exceptionally high-risk jobs. Such jobs include direct patient care or decontamination work; aerosol-generating or postmortem procedures; and first-responder activities. The additional measures include:
- Detailed infection control training and planning
- Sanitation procedures for routine cleaning and disinfection
- Robust use of personal protective equipment
- Operation of existing ventilation systems according to national standards
- Use of barriers, partitions, and airborne infection isolation rooms
- Screening and triaging for symptoms of COVID-19