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Labor & Employment Attorneys Brief Employers on New OSHA COVID-19 Rules
Attorneys from Tonkon Torp’s Labor & Employment Practice Group have delivered a series of alerts and webinars to help employers navigate the newly released OSHA COVID-19 Rule. The Rule was adopted on November 6 and went into effect on November 16. Tonkon Torp has also released an in-depth analysis of the new Rule in an alert published on the Tonkon Torp website.
On November 10, Kristin Bremer Moore and Megan Reuther led two sessions on how the rule applies to the workplace: one for the general business community and the second for the Northwest Grocery Association. On November 11, Clay Creps and Christopher Morehead led a session for the Oregon Health Care Association to address how the Rule affects employers in healthcare settings. Healthcare businesses fall under the definition of Exceptional Risk Workplace and carry additional requirements.
A recording of the webinar for general business audiences is available below. Viewers are encouraged to follow up directly to ask questions not addressed during the program.
The webinar sessions focused on clarifying the new heavy lift requirements for employers which include completing a comprehensive Risk Assessment, creating an Infection Control Plan, and delivering employee information and training. Since OSHA does not provide examples for every workplace setup throughout the provisions, the attorneys shared ways that employers can use common sense, compassion, and clarity to interpret and implement the Rule in their workplace.
A primary segment of each webinar was focused on how to conduct and document the Risk Assessment, which must be completed by December 7. Although it may seem onerous, the attorneys stressed that the process is helpful for empowering employees, shoring up communications, and identifying missing policy. The speakers offered suggestions on how to approach the assessment in a wide array of work settings, which can differ even within one facility. They advised employers to be strategic about assembling a cross section of employees to participate, and to conduct the Assessment in a safe setting that will not exacerbate exposure to the virus. They also noted legal risks that the Assessment could trigger, such as employees engaging in protective activities while sharing, employees giving reports of violations that will need to be investigated, and employees revealing medical conditions that could trigger additional ADA processes.
The attorneys explained how the Risk Assessment results are to be incorporated into a written Infection Control Plan, along with six mandatory elements laid out in the Rule plus additional items for Exceptional Risk Workplaces. This Plan, due by December 7, is then incorporated into employee information and training which includes its own set of 10 mandatory topics such as identifying signs and symptoms of COVID-19, sanitation, quarantine requirements, safe and healthy work practices, and additional elements for Exceptional Risk Workplaces. Training is to be completed by December 21.
The sessions wrapped up with a review of additional Rule provisions applicable to all workplaces as well as additional requirements for Exceptional Risk settings.
Tonkon Torp has developed a Field Guide to help employers understand and implement the Emergency Oregon OSHA COVID-19 Rule. Please fill out this form if you would like to learn more or purchase a copy of the Field Guide.
For more information to assist your company during the coronavirus pandemic, consult our COVID-19 Business Resource page, which is continually refreshed with news, alerts, events, and videos that address a broad range of corporate topics.