On Thursday, June 10, the United States Department of Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Administration provided new guidelines called, “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace”. While a majority of the guidelines focus on healthcare workers, there is a section for what OSHA calls “high-risk workplaces” which include manufacturing, warehouses, and workplaces with assembly lines. tED magazine pulled that section for you to read in this story, but you can read the entire guidance by clicking here.
Appendix: Measures Appropriate for Higher-Risk Workplaces with Mixed-Vaccination Status Workers
Employers should take additional steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in workplaces where there is heightened risk due to the following types of factors:
- Close contact– where unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers are working close to one another, for example, on production or assembly lines. Such workers may also be near one another at other times, such as when clocking in or out, during breaks, or in locker/changing rooms.
- Duration of contact – where unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers often have prolonged closeness to coworkers (e.g., for 8–12 hours per shift). Continued contact with potentially infectious individuals increases the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
- Type of contact – unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers who may be exposed to the infectious virus through respiratory droplets in the air—for example, when unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in a manufacturing or factory setting who have the virus cough or sneeze. It is also possible that exposure could occur from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects, such as tools, workstations, or break room tables. Shared spaces such as break rooms, locker rooms, and entrances/exits to the facility may contribute to their risk.
- Other distinctive factors that may increase risk among these unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers include:
- A common practice at some workplaces of sharing employer-provided transportation such as ride-share vans or shuttle vehicles;
- Frequent contact with other unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk individuals in community settings in areas where there is elevated community transmission; and
- Communal housing or living quarters onboard vessels with other unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk individuals.
In these types of higher-risk workplaces – which include manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, high-volume retail and grocery, and seafood processing – this Appendix provides best practices to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers. Please note that these recommendations are in addition to those in the general precautions described above, including isolation of infected or possibly infected workers, and other precautions.
In all higher-risk workplaces where there are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers:
- Stagger break times in these generally high-population workplaces, or provide temporary break areas and restrooms to avoid groups of unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers congregating during breaks. Unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others at all times, including on breaks.
- Stagger workers’ arrival and departure times to avoid congregations of unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk in parking areas, locker rooms, and near time clocks.
- Provide visual cues (e.g., floor markings, signs) as a reminder to maintain physical distancing.
- Implement strategies (tailored to your workplace) to improve ventilation that protects workers as outlined in CDC’s Ventilation in Buildings and in the OSHA Alert: COVID-19 Guidance on Ventilation in the Workplace.
In workplaces (or well-defined work areas) with processing or assembly lines where there are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers:
- Working on food processing or assembly lines can result in virus exposure because these workplaces have often been designed for a number of workers to stand next to or across from each other to maximize productivity. Proper spacing of unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers (or if not possible, appropriate use of barriers) can help reduce the risks for such workers.
In retail workplaces (or well-defined work areas within retail) where there are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers:
- Suggest masks for unvaccinated (or unknown-status) customers and other visitors.
- Consider means for physical distancing from other people who are not known to be fully vaccinated. If distancing is not possible, consider the use of barriers between work stations used by unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers and the locations customers will stand, with pass-through openings at the bottom, if possible.
- Move the electronic payment terminal/credit card reader farther away from any unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in order to increase the distance between customers and such workers, if possible.
- Shift primary stocking activities of unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers to off-peak or after hours when possible to reduce contact between unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers and customers.
Unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers are also at risk when traveling to and from work in employer-provided buses and vans.
- Notify unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers of this risk and, to the extent feasible, help them limit the number of such workers in one vehicle.
- Make sure all unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers sharing a vehicle are wearing appropriate face coverings.