New COVID workplace rules in effect


OREGON — Employers in Oregon will now be required to notify employees when they might have been exposed to COVID-19 on the job as part of new, temporary regulations from Oregon Occupational Safety and Health that went into effect Monday.

Some of the requirements within the rules, which remain in effect until May 4, 2021, unless revised or repealed, will be phased in during the next month. Signage notifying employees where face coverings are required must be in place by Nov. 23, while exposure risk assessments must be conducted by Dec. 7. Establishments with more than 10 employees will be required to put those exposure risk assessments in writing.

Also by Dec. 7, employers will be required to develop an infection control plan — those with more than 10 employees must put it in writing and ensure a copy is accessible in the workplace —with the following elements: a list of all job assignments requiring PPE, procedures to ensure an adequate supply of that protective equipment, a description of specific hazard control procedures the employer has implemented to minimize exposure risk, a description of the employer’s face covering requirements and the procedures the employer will use to notify employees of potential exposure to an individual known or suspected to be infected with COVID-19.

No later than Dec. 21, employers must provide workers with training regarding COVID-19, including information about physical distancing requirements, face covering requirements, sanitation requirements, sign and symptom reporting procedures, the infection notification process, the methods of transmission and characteristics of infection with COVID-19 and the ability of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic persons to transmit the virus.

Notification, testing, and medical removal

If an infection does occur in the workplace, employers must have a process in place to notify workers within 24 hours if they were within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 individual for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more, whether or not workers were wearing a mask or other protective equipment.

If the local health department or Oregon Health Authority determines diagnostic testing in the workplace is necessary, the employer must cooperate by making employees and space available at no cost. The employer is not obligated to pay for the testing unless it is at their own direction.

If health officials recommend an employee quarantine or isolate, the employer must direct that employee to stay home. The OSHA text notes, “Other than the obligation to provide such direction and to remove such employees from the workplace, the employer has no obligation to enforce the employee’s quarantine or isolation.”

Employers must ensure face coverings are worn and must provide them for employees. They must ensure that workplace activities eliminate the need for employees to be closer than 6 feet to one another, unless they can demonstrate physical distancing isn’t feasible for a necessary task. High-touch surfaces, shared equipment and common areas must be cleaned once every 24 hours if the workplace is occupied less than 12 hours a day or every 8 hours if occupied longer.

Some of these requirements differ in certain workplace environments. The published text includes an appendix with rules for more than a dozen specific industries and activities. There are also additional guidelines for “exceptional risk” workplaces, primarily health care settings. The full text of the new temporary rule, 105 pages, can be found at tinyurl.com/y52czzyw. The document includes links to a template exposure risk assessment and a model infection control plan.

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