Stay Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Stay Safe During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Measures for protecting workers from exposure to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, depend on the type of work being performed and exposure risk, including potential for interaction with infectious people and contamination of the work environment.

Employers should adapt infection control strategies based on a thorough hazard assessment, using appropriate combinations of engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent worker exposures. Some OSHA standards that apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19 also require employers to train workers on elements of infection prevention, including PPE.

OSHA has developed this interim guidance to help prevent worker exposure to COVID-19. Here is general guidance for all U.S. workers and employers. For all workers, regardless of specific exposure risks, it is always a good practice to:

  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. When soap and running water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands that are visibly soiled.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

For most types of workers, the risk of infection with COVID-19 is similar to that of the general American public.

Employers and workers in operations where there is no specific exposure hazard should remain aware of the evolving outbreak situation. Changes in outbreak conditions may warrant additional precautions in some workplaces.

Identify and Isolate Suspected Cases

In all workplaces where exposure to the COVID-19 may occur, prompt identification and isolation of potentially infectious individuals is a critical first step in protecting workers, visitors, and others at the worksite.

Take steps to limit the spread of the person’s infectious respiratory secretions, including providing them a facemask and asking them to wear it if they can tolerate doing so. Note: A surgical mask on a patient or other sick person should not be confused with PPE for a worker; the mask acts to contain potentially infectious respiratory secretions at the source (i.e., the person’s nose and mouth).

Protect workers in close contact with the sick person by using additional engineering and administrative control, safe work practices and PPE. CDC defines “close contact” as being about six (6) feet (approximately two [2] meters) from an infected person or within the room or care area of an infected patient for a prolonged period while not wearing recommended PPE. Close contact also includes instances where there is direct contact with infectious secretions while not wearing recommended PPE. Close contact generally does not include brief interactions, such as walking past a person.

Environmental Decontamination

When someone touches a surface or object contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19 and then touches their own eyes, nose, or mouth, they may expose themselves to the virus.

Because the transmissibility of COVID-19 from contaminated environmental surfaces and objects is not fully understood, employers should carefully evaluate whether or not work areas occupied by people suspected to have virus may have been contaminated and whether or not they need to be decontaminated in response.

Outside of healthcare and death care facilities, there is typically no need to perform special cleaning or decontamination of work environments when a person suspected of having the virus has been present unless those environments are visibly contaminated with blood or other body fluids. In limited cases where further cleaning and decontamination may be necessary, consult U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance for cleaning and disinfecting environments, including those contaminated with other coronavirus.

Workers who conduct cleaning tasks must be protected from exposure to blood, certain body fluids, and other potentially infectious materials covered by OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens.