Oregon OSHA Issues Revised Standards Regarding COVID-19 – Employers Should Take Note and Take Action

Oregon employers should take note of new state Occupational Health & Safety Administration (“OR OSHA”) standards that are likely to take effect soon.  On September 25, 2020, OR OSHA’s Infectious Disease Rulemaking Advisory Committee published its final COVID-19 Temporary Standard (following a brief notice and comment period).

Whereas much of the earlier guidance for employers from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and OR OSHA was limited to specific industries or types of facilities, these new requirements impose mandates on all Oregon employers.  OR OSHA pushed back the initial timeline for issuance, and has indicated it now intends to issue the new requirements on October 21, 2020 with an effective date of November 1, 2020.

Here, we highlight they key new requirements of the Standard, which employers should move quickly to implement.  (Additional requirements not covered in this post apply to “workplaces at exceptional risk,” defined in the Standard as those where job duties include certain health care, emergency first response, and laboratory functions.)

  • Physical distancing
    • Employers “must ensure” that the workplace is “designed to eliminate the need for any worker to be within 6 feet of another individual in order to fulfill their job duties.”
  • Face covering mandate
    • Employers must provide masks, face shields, or face coverings (in accordance with specific definitions of each of these items provided in the Standard) to all employees. Employers then have the choice of whether to let employees their own face coverings or require them to use the employer-provided ones.
    • Employers “must ensure” that all individuals wear masks, face shields, or face coverings in the following circumstances, unless they are “actively eating, drinking, or smoking”:
      • Whenever employees cannot be separated by at least 6 feet, whether indoors or outdoors.
      • In any indoor room affording less than 35 square feet per individual.
      • In any indoor room smaller than 200 square feet in which multiple individuals are working.
      • Any time employees travel together by motor vehicle for work purposes.
    • In addition, employers “must ensure” that all individuals (including vendors) wear a mask, face shield, or face covering whenever 6 feet of social distancing “cannot be consistently assured.”
  • Sanitation
    • Employers must clean or sanitize all common areas, shared equipment, and high-touch surfaces (all three terms defined in the tile) within 24 hours of use/occupancy by any individual.
    • Employers must provide employees the supplies needed to “sanitize more frequently” and “perform hand hygiene” before using shared equipment, applying cosmetics, eating, or smoking.
  • Posting requirements
    • OR OSHA will issue a “COVID-19 Hazards Poster,” which employers must post in all of the following locations:
      • A “central location where workers can be expected to see it.”
      • Any point of entry to an indoor portion of the workplace.
      • Any bathroom entrance.
      • Any point of entry to a breakroom, lunchroom, or other designated place to eat or smoke.
    • Employers must all send the same information to all remote workers electronically.
    • Note:  This posting would be in addition to the “Face Coverings Required” sign issued by the OHA.
  • Building operators
    • Employers who also “operate or otherwise control” any building(s) in which individuals work need to ensure posting and sanitation requirements are met by all occupants.
  • Ventilation requirements
    • Existing HVAC systems must be used to circulate air whenever employees are present.
    • HVAC air filters must be maintained per manufacturer’s instructions and design specifications.
    • Intake ports for HVAC systems must be cleaned, maintained per manufacturer’s instructions and design specifications, and cleared of debris.
  • Appointing a “distancing officer”
    • Employers must appoint someone who will be responsible for assisting with implementation of physical distancing, face covering, and sanitation requirements at each establishment.
  • Exposure risk assessment
    • Employers must conduct an exposure risk assessment addressing 12 specific questions outlined in the Standard.
    • Employers with more than 10 employees in the state must document their assessment in a writing that also identifies the person who conducted the assessment, the date it was conducted, and the “job classifications that were evaluated.”
  • Employee feedback
    • The exposure risk assessment “must involve feedback and participation from employees” (for example, in an interactive safety meeting).
    • Employers also “must solicit” feedback from employees (for example, in an interactive safety meeting) on its policies for physical distancing, face coverings, sanitation requirements, signs/symptoms reporting, and medical removal (defined below).
  • COVID-19 infection notification process
    • Employers must have a process in place to notify employees of work-related contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 within 48 hours of the employers being made aware of the positive test.
    • The process needs to comply with all federal/state laws (e.g., protecting privacy of the positive individual to the maximum extent possible). The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for example, recently updated its guidance on COVID-19-related employer inquiries in light of the ADA and other EEO laws.

Oregon employers should also be mindful of additional requirements that may impact operations later, monitor developments, and prepare now to the extent possible to be ready should additional obligations come online:

  • Medical removal
    • If OHA, a local health authority, or a medical provider “recommends employee quarantine or isolation” due to COVID-19 (e.g., through contract tracing), the affected employee “must” be reassigned to duties that do not involve in-person contract with other workers or the public until the authority/provider indicates medical removal is no longer needed.
      • Employers do not need to include the medical removal on their OSHA log(s), however, unless the infection is determined to be “work-related.”
    • The affected employee must be able to return to previous job duties without any adverse action/consequences after the medical removal is complete.
  • If OHA or a local health authority determine that workplace testing is required, employers must “cooperate” in making employees and space available.
  • If OR OSHA finalizes and issues industry-specific guidance for COVID-19 in one or more appendices to the rule, employers must comply.