COVID-19 pandemic: Oregon OSHA seeks input on draft of emergency temporary standard

Salem, OR — Oregon OSHA is accepting public comment through Aug. 31 on a draft emergency temporary standard intended to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.

The proposed rule contains multiple provisions that would apply to all workplaces, with specific requirements for those that have “close-in” work activities (e.g., tattooing, massage and hair dressing) and health care activities that involve direct patient care. Among the provisions are physical distancing processes, the use of physical barriers and face coverings, and sanitation policies and procedures. Employers must design workplaces and job tasks so employees can maintain 6 feet of distance from others.

For example, in office settings, face coverings would be required when workers aren’t at a desk or are seated in a conference room and when 6 feet of distance can’t be reliably maintained. For shared equipment and high-contact surfaces, employers would have to ensure necessary cleaning and disinfecting supplies are available and the items are sanitized before use by another worker and before each shift.

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Employers would be required to post Oregon OSHA’s “COVID-19 Hazards Poster” in the workplace, notify employees of physical distancing requirements and how they’ll be implemented, and provide opportunities for workers to offer feedback.

For workplaces with 25 or more employees, at least one worker would have to be designated to assist the employer with identifying appropriate physical distancing, proper face covering use and sanitation measures, and then ensuring implementation of the procedures.

“We look forward to more review and feedback as we seek to further bolster on-the-job protections for workers against this disease,” Oregon OSHA Administrator Michael Wood said in an Aug. 17 press release announcing the publication of the draft document. “This rule proposal reflects the need to provide both clearer and more stable guidance in the workplace than has been possible during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The rule could take effect Sept. 14 at the latest and would remain in effect for 180 days.

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