COVID-19 Workplace Preparedness and Guidance: To reduce the impact of COVID-19 outbreak conditions on businesses, workers, customers, and the public, it is important for all employers to plan now for COVID-19.
For employers who have already planned for influenza pandemics, planning for COVID-19 may involve updating plans to address the specific exposure risks, sources of exposure, routes of transmission, and other unique characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 (i.e., compared to pandemic influenza viruses).
Employers who have not prepared for pandemic events should prepare themselves and their workers as far in advance as possible of potentially worsening outbreak conditions.
Lack of continuity planning can result in a cascade of failures as employers attempt to address challenges of COVID-19 with insufficient resources and workers who might not be adequately trained for jobs they may have to perform under pandemic conditions.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed this COVID-19 planning guidance based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as considerations for doing so.
How a COVID-19 Outbreak Could Affect Workplaces
Similar to influenza viruses, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has the potential to cause extensive outbreaks. Under conditions associated with widespread person-to-person spread, multiple areas of the United States and other countries may see impacts at the same time.
In the absence of a vaccine, an outbreak may also be an extended event. As a result, workplaces may experience:
Absenteeism. Workers could be absent because they are sick; are caregivers for sick family members; are caregivers for children if schools or day care centers are closed; have at-risk people at home, such as immunocompromised family members; or are afraid to come to work because of fear of possible exposure.
Change in patterns of commerce. Consumer demand for items related to infection prevention (e.g., respirators) is likely to increase significantly, while consumer interest in other goods may decline. Consumers may also change shopping patterns because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Consumers may try to shop at off-peak hours to reduce contact with other people, show increased interest in home delivery services, or prefer other options, such as drive-through service, to reduce person-to-person contact.
Interrupted supply/delivery. Shipments of items from geographic areas severely affected by COVID-19 may be delayed or cancelled with or without notification.
Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of Exposure to SARS-CoV-2
This section describes basic steps that every employer can take to reduce the risk of worker exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in their workplace.
Later sections of this guidance—including those focusing on jobs classified as having low, medium, high, and very high exposure risks—provide specific recommendations for employers and workers within specific risk categories.
Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
If one does not already exist, develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19.
Stay abreast of guidance from federal, state, local, tribal, and/or territorial health agencies, and consider how to incorporate those recommendations and resources into workplace-specific plans.
Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks workers perform at those sites. Such considerations may include:
Where, how, and to what sources of SARS-CoV-2 might workers be exposed, including:
- The general public, customers, and coworkers; and
- Sick individuals or those at particularly high risk of infection (e.g., international travelers who have visited locations with widespread sustained (ongoing) COVID-19 transmission, healthcare workers who have had unprotected exposures to people known to have, or suspected of having, COVID-19).
Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings. Read Complete Workplace Guide Here