WHILE FED-OSHA has not issued specific regulations regarding personal protective equipment for
COVID-19, employers are still required under existing rules to conduct hazard assessments to determine PPE requirements for their worksite.
Before employers consider PPE though, they should follow workplace safety best practices by following this hierarchy of safety controls:
1. Engineering controls
2. Administrative controls
You should first use engineering controls like improving air filtration, increasing ventilation and installing physical barriers such as plexiglass shields between workers.
After engineering controls have been put in place, the next step in workplace safety is administrative controls such as:
- Requiring workers to stay 6 feet apart from one another.
- Staggering shifts.
- Training workers about COVID-19
risk factors and behaviors they can adopt to protect themselves.
- Providing resources such as hand soap, hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and disinfectant wipes to clean work surfaces.
OSHA’s PPE advice
- Surgical masks
- Face shields.
You should require PPE based on a hazard assessment of your workplace and workers’ specific job duties.
If you, the state or your local municipality are requiring workers to wear PPE, you should provide it for them or reimburse them for buying their own.
California law requires employers to reimburse employees “for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee” while completing work duties.
Federal OSHA’s guidance for returning to work during the COVID-19 pandemic has the following PPE advice for employers:
- Cloth face coverings are not PPE, but they can reduce the spread of COVID-19 from workers to others.
- Cloth face coverings may be commercially produced or improvised (i.e., home-made) garments, scarves, bandanas or items made from t-shirts or other fabrics.
- If you are requiring your staff to wear masks, you should provide specific written rules about when they must be worn.
- When disposable gloves are used, workers should typically use a single pair of nitrile exam gloves. Change gloves if they become torn or visibly contaminated with blood or body fluids.
- When eye protection is needed, use goggles or face shields. Personal eyeglasses are not considered adequate eye protection.
- After removing PPE, always wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, if available.