As an EHS consultant, I’m used to fielding questions on OSHA requirements, but since the beginning of the pandemic the amount has increased exponentially. With that in mind, I’m offering guidance on implementing workplace health and safety hazard processes as it relates to COVID-19.
Classifying Employees as Low, Medium, and High Risk
In this particular scenario where we are recognizing that there is a potential for COVID-19 infection in the workplace, you will want to include the process of classifying your workers according to their risk level: low, medium, or high. The majority of our employees in general industry will likely be classified as low or medium exposure risk.
Workers classified as lower risk in the food processing or manufacturing industries are those whose positions don't require contact with anyone who has COVID-19 or is suspected of having it: remote workers, office staff, or those in manufacturing industrial roles who don’t have to “bump elbows” with anyone.
Employees who have frequent or close contact with the public are typically classified as being at medium risk. The risk is higher if the environment is relatively crowded and social distancing becomes a logistical challenge. Frontline workers such as delivery truck drivers or customer-facing employees who run a storefront or restaurant would be considered a medium exposure risk.
In general industry and manufacturing, a high risk classification is unlikely. This category pertains manly to healthcare work, where employees are likely to come into contact with people who are infected.
Very high risk exposure cases involve processes that generate infected aerosols and airborne droplets. High and very high risk exposure are unlikely in the manufacturing industry.
Resources for Up-to-Date Guidance
We’re all experiencing COVID-19 information overload now, and it’s a challenge sorting out what’s important to us. An excellent go-to resource is the OSHA web page at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/ which includes links to implementation guidance, updates, and other resources related to the pandemic.
OSHA QuickTakes is a free biweekly electronic newsletter that sends the latest information on enforcement, rules, and OSHA resources. See https://www.osha.gov/quicktakes/ to sign up.
You can also isit the CDC, WHO, and FDA for guidance, or you can also visit our resource page where we compiled a comprehensive list on workforce training, business continuation, PPE, financial assistance, and more industry-related resources regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
And we invite you to join our LinkedIn Group, Intertek Alchemy Community Connections, and post them there. It’s a gathering place where you can connect with other industry leaders and share best practices, seek guidance, and feel a sense of unity with your peers as we navigate this crisis together.