OSHA has prepared and published guidance on COVID-19 to help employers and workers identify risks of being exposed to and of contracting it in workplace settings. This information is not a standard or regulation and creates no new legal obligations. It is advisory in nature, informational in content.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
As most people may know, COVID-19 in a highly infectious virus that is spread from person to person through particles produced when an infected person exhales, talks, vocalizes, sneezes or coughs.
- Although less common, it may also be transmitted when people touch a contaminated object and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
- It is highly transmissible and can be spread by people who have no symptoms and who do not know they are infected.
- Particles containing the virus can travel more than 6 feet, especially indoors.
What Workers Need to Know
The best way to protect yourself is to stay far enough away from other people so that you are not breathing in particles produced by an infected person. This is generally at least 6 feet (or two arm lengths). Keep in mind, this does not guarantee you will not contract the virus especially if you work in enclosed spaces or have poor ventilation.
Practice good personal hygiene and wash your hands often. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit. Monitor your health daily and be alert for COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough, shortness of breath, etc.
Face coverings help prevent your respiratory droplets or aerosols from reaching others. Not all face coverings are the same. The CDC recommends that face coverings be made of at least two layers of a tightly woven breathable fabric, such as cotton, and should not have exhalation valves or vents.
The main function of wearing a face covering is to protect those around you, in case you are infected but not showing symptoms. Face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth.
You should wear a face covering even if you do not feel sick. People with COVID-19 who never develop symptoms – those who are asymptomatic – and those who are not yet showing symptoms – those who are pre-symptomatic – can still spread the virus to others.
It is especially important to wear a face covering when you are unable to stay at least 6 feet apart from others since COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another; however, wearing a face covering does not eliminate the need for physical distancing or other control measures.
It is important to wear a face covering and remain physically distant from co-workers and customers even if you have been vaccinated because it is not known at this time how vaccination affects transmissibility.
Know what COVID-19 prevention program policies and procedures your employer has established to keep workers safe.
OSHA provides some general guidance in developing a COVID-19 prevention program; however, these elements need to be customized to your workplace.
OSHA provides information under, Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.