COVID-19 pandemic: Oregon OSHA to enact emergency temporary standard
Salem, OR — An emergency temporary standard intended to protect workers in Oregon from exposure to COVID-19 is set to go into effect Nov. 16.
The rule, announced Nov. 6, lays out multiple requirements for employers, including:
- Designing workplaces and job tasks so employees can maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
- Providing masks, face coverings or faceshields for workers and, in line with guidance from the Oregon Health Authority, ensuring all individuals wear them.
- Seeking feedback from employees to conduct a risk assessment of potential worker exposure to COVID-19.
- Creating an infection control plan that outlines elements such as when workers must use personal protective equipment and describing specific hazard controls.
- Notifying affected workers within 24 hours of a work-related COVID-19 infection.
- Cooperating with public health officials should workplace testing be necessary.
The agency will phase in certain elements of the rule, which is expected to remain effective until May 4.
“We believe compliance with this rule will help reduce the serious threat to workers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood said in a Nov. 6 press release. “It does so by establishing a clear, practical and consistent set of measures for employers.”
Oregon OSHA – which operates under federal OSHA’s State Plan program – announced in June it would pursue drafting the temporary standard. A timeline released that month stated agency officials hope to have a permanent rule in place in February after a public comment period and subsequent agency review.
In a Nov. 9 press release, Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor hailed the ETS as “a step forward for workers”:
“We owe it to the workers who risk their health and safety to provide for their families to get this right, and soon, to ensure workplace protection now and into the future. Every worker who clocks in during this pandemic is a hero, and it is past time we treat them as such.”
Virginia and Michigan put in place similar ETSs in July and October, respectively.
Despite being pushed to issue an ETS on infectious diseases via multiple petitions and lawsuits from worker advocacy groups, federal OSHA officials have consistently reiterated the agency’s position to use existing rules – including its General Duty Clause – to protect workers during the pandemic.
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