The CDC released new face mask guidance due to the recent surge of COVID-19 infections on December 4, 2020. The CDC has strengthened its recommendations for controlling the COVID-19 pandemic to include universal use of face masks indoors, unless the person is at home and absent recent exposure. The updated face Mask guidance presumably applies to employers as well.
Safety Practices Summary
If not already in place employers should consider incorporating mandatory face coverings into their workplace pandemic safety protocols. The CDC said that the "COVID-19 pandemic control requires a multi-pronged application of evidence-based strategies while improving health equity." These updated safety practices include universal face mask use for the following reasons:
- According to the CDC, the consistent and correct use of face masks is a public health strategy critical to reducing respiratory transmission of COVID-19, especially in light of estimates indicating that about half of new infections are transmitted by persons who have no symptoms. "Compelling evidence now supports the benefits of cloth face masks for both source control (to protect others) and, to a lesser extent, protection of the wearer," the CDC wrote.
- In an effort preserve the supply of N95 respirators for health care workers and other medical first responders, the CDC is recommending nonvalved, multilayer cloth masks or nonmedical disposable masks for community use. Using a face mask is most important in indoor spaces and outdoors when physical distancing of at least six feet cannot be maintained.
- At home, face masks should be used when a member of the household is infected or has had recent potential COVID-19 exposure, such as known close contact or potential exposure related to occupation, crowded public settings, travel, or non-household members in the house.
- The CDC also said that a community-level plan for distribution of face masks to specific populations, such as those who might experience barriers to access, should be developed.
Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Program
Use of face coverings are also included in Cal/OSHA’s emergency regulations approved on November 30, 2020, by the Office of Administrative Law. The Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) require employers to protect workers from hazards related to COVID-19
To comply with the ETS, an employer must develop a written COVID-19 Prevention Program. Or update the list of COVID-19 element in an existing Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP). The ETS guidelines include a list of requirements including use of face coverings in the workplace.
Other Safety Guidance
The CDC also offered other safety measures bringing guidelines closer in line with Cal/OSHA.
- physical distancing,
- avoiding nonessential indoor spaces,
- increasing testing,
- prompt quarantine of exposed persons,
- safeguarding those at increased risk for severe illness or death,
- protecting essential workers,
- postponing travel,
- enhancing ventilation and hand hygiene, and
- achieving widespread COVID-19 vaccination coverage.
OnePoint HCM has many features and reports to support workplace safety and Illness prevention programs. Use attestation surveys to ask health questions at punch in. Time sheet cost centers can help with contact tracing and notification regulations. HR Actions can streamline incident tracking and automate OSHA reporting.
This updated guidance is provided for market awareness purposes only. It is not exhaustive and it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel. Please access any number of government resources available to monitor changes in employment law that may affect your organization or consult with a labor law attorney.