The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has decided to sing the same song as its sister agency. Last Friday, August 13, OSHA updated its guidance for American workplaces, auto-tuning its recommendations for fully vaccinated employees to match recent guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
OSHA Guidance on Wearing Masks in the Workplace
On June 10, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new guidance, in the form of frequently asked questions and answers, regarding the use of masks in the workplace.
The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks and respirators. It further reminds employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed. In addition, the guidance notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on washing face coverings. (For our FAQ on face coverings, click here.)
Importantly, the new guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. OSHA states that the “recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace.”
We’ve copied the most helpful OSHA FAQs here and underlined pertinent language for emphasis:
Are employers required to provide cloth face coverings to workers?
Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. As such, OSHA’s PPE standards do not require employers to provide them.…
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Face Coverings: Q&A for US Employers
As companies develop their reopening playbook, health & safety is of course the top line concern. Face coverings have emerged as one of the most popular preventative measures for mitigating the spread of the virus. For employers, questions abound about obligations related to face coverings.
We’ve been helping multinational companies navigate the use of face coverings in the workplace. Here are answers to some of the most common questions in the US:
- Does the CDC require the use of face coverings in the workplace?
No. At this point, there is no federal requirement that employees wear face coverings in the workplace. The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. See here.
The CDC also recommends using cloth face coverings, and not surgical masks or N-95 respirators, which are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
- Does OSHA require the use of face coverings in the workplace?
No, except in specific workplaces where there is a higher risk of airborne exposures. OSHA has not required employees to wear masks at work as a result of COVID-19, except in certain settings such as hospitals and other workplaces where Personal Protective Equipment was required before the pandemic.…