The HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) includes the provision, “Not later than 24 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Labor shall, pursuant to section 6 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (29 U.S.C. 655), promulgate a final standard—(1) to protect employees” who are at occupational risk for exposure to SARS-CoV-2,” also known as COVID-19, “…from occupational exposure to infectious pathogens, including novel pathogens.” The legislation also calls upon the Department of Labor (OSHA) to develop a temporary standard within 7 days of enactment.
This means that, should the HEROES Act become law, employers will have to develop processes and programs for the prevention of contagious diseases. Even if it does not, it is certainly desirable to protect our workers, customers, and other stakeholders, and also make it unnecessary to shut down operations as happened during the first part of 2020. OSHA's (March 2020) "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19" already gives us a good idea of what will be in any forthcoming OSHA standard, and we can also look for guidance to measures that are already being taken around the country.
UPDATE as of July 1, 2020. Researchers have discovered a novel swine flu virus that could conceivably result in an additional pandemic to go with the existing COVID-19 pandemic. See for example Yeung, Jessie, “China researchers discover new swine flu with 'pandemic potential'” at CNN (June 30, 2020). While this disease is believed less likely than not to pose a threat comparable to that of COVID-19, its existence underscores the need to prepare for illnesses for which no vaccines are available and to which humans have little resistance. The good news is that all the countermeasures that workplaces take against COVID-19 are likely to be effective against similar threats in the future.
This webinar will equip attendees to anticipate, as best as possible, a forthcoming OSHA standard for the protection of workers from infectious diseases such as COVID-19. It draws heavily on the existing "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19," ASHRAE's material on the role of air handling systems in the suppression of contagion, and also actions that workplaces and businesses are already taking to address the problem. Attendees will gain an overview of basic principles, and also authoritative references to which they can look for guidance.
· Enactment of the HEROES Act (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) will result in a new OSHA standard that will almost certainly require workplaces to develop plans and programs to suppress contagion from COVID-19 and similar diseases.
oEven if the HEROES Act does not become law, we definitely want to protect our workers, customers, and other relevant interested parties from harm, and also protect the continuity of operations by avoiding the need to shut down operations as happened in the first part of 2020.
oWe cannot rely on a vaccine because none is likely to be ready for several months, and viruses can mutate into new forms against which vaccines will not work. This is why we need a new flu vaccine every year.
· Planning principles
o "Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19" is a good starting point.
oPlanners need to consider two contagion sources; contagion from a cough, and contagion from contaminated surfaces. Countermeasures against a cough will also work against ordinary speech and breathing, but not necessarily the other way around. Experiments performed in 1918 show that a cough can project aerosols to 10 or more feet as opposed to the currently cited 6 feet.
oCreate a risk register of potential contagion sources by location (e.g. shop floor, cafeteria, restrooms, lobby) or by job activity. Ask what countermeasures or controls exist in each to prevent contagion. If there is no answer, one needs to be developed.
oIdentify the risk level (per OSHA) of each job. Most ordinary jobs are in the medium exposure risk category. This is good news because respiratory protection, including a respiratory protection program with medical evaluations, fitting, and training is unlikely to apply to medium risk jobs.
oInvolve the workforce and other stakeholders in the planning process. Front line workers are often in the best position to identify risks.
·The best control or countermeasure is to eliminate the hazard by telecommuting, distance conferencing, or distance education. This also eliminates the costs of travel, lodging, and brick and mortar facilities. COVID-19 cannot travel over a telephone line or Internet connection.
oIf some in-person contact is desirable, the risk can be reduced, along with the cost of facilities, with rental conference space.
·Engineering controls are those that do not rely on vigilance and compliance to protect people.
oDistance (between respiratory tracts) is the best defense, and it can be added with, for example, partitions without the need for more actual floor space per employee or customer.
oAir handling systems also play an important role, and ASHRAE has published extensive guidance.
· Administrative controls rely on vigilance and compliance.
oStaggered shifts and breaks can reduce the number of people present, and therefore opportunities for contagion, in any given place at a given time. This was actually used against the 1918 flu pandemic.
o Attendance policies should discourage rather than encourage sick employees from coming to work.
oHand hygiene should be readily available throughout the workplace.
·Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defense, but it is extremely effective when N95 and similar respirators are involved.
oIf respirators are required for the job, then a respiratory protection program that meets OSHA requirements is mandatory. The good news is however that medium risk jobs are unlikely to require them.
o Surgical face masks also offer good protection but are not adequate substitutes for respirators when the latter are required. Surgical masks that meet ASTM requirements for Level 1, 2, or 3 designations are known quantities in terms of bacterial filtration efficiency.
oBeware of substandard or counterfeit PPE. Respirators must meet NIOSH requirements but unscrupulous sellers are mislabeling respirators that do not offer the required levels of protection.
Who should attend:
·Safety/ Security Professionals
·Office layout planner, and others with responsibility for mitigation of COVID-19 risks.
·Human Resource Professionals
·All people with responsibility for reopening businesses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as people with responsibility for building layouts and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
Margie Faulk, PHR, SHRM-CP is a senior level human resources professional with over 14 years of HR management and compliance experience. A former Compliance Officer for a defense contracting technologies firm, Margie has worked as an HR and Compliance advisor for major corporations and small businesses in the small, large, private, public and Non-profit sectors. Margie is bilingual (Spanish) fluent and Bi-cultural.
Margie’s focus is on multi-state, national, state and local workplace compliance. Additionally, Margie is working on International compliance initiatives globally which includes workplace compliance in other countries like the UK, Canada, France, Brazil, China, Africa, Mexico and India, just to name a few.
Margie has created and presented seminars/webinars for many compliance institutes. These national training providers, offer compliance training to professionals, business owners and companies interested in having their company compliant with workplace and industry regulations.
Margie holds professional human resources certification (PHR) from the HR Certification Institution (HRCI) and SHRM-CP certification from Society for Human Resources Management. Margie has completed the Certified Compliance and Ethics Professional training and is a member of the Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics (SCCE).