Employers That Require Employees to Wear Masks Need to be Aware of OSHA’s Applicable Requirements.
If you are an employer and you require your employees to wear masks, please keep in mind the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, found here: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=12716&p_table=STANDARDS
Employers are responsible for choosing equipment that is suitable to the hazard, and for implementing a respiratory protection program:
“A respirator shall be provided to each employee when such equipment is necessary to protect the health of such employee. The employer shall provide the respirators which are applicable and suitable for the purpose intended. The employer shall be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a respiratory protection program, which shall include the requirements outlined in paragraph (c) of this section. The program shall cover each employee required by this section to use a respirator.” (Emphasis added).
Compliance is Mandatory.
OSHA can and will fine employers that don’t follow the regulatory requirements, including COVID-related programs. Here is a link to a 7/27/20 story in EHS Daily Advisor:
Excerpts from the article:
On July 21, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it had cited an employer for violations of the respiratory protection standard after the company reported the coronavirus-related hospitalization of seven employees. The agency proposed penalties totaling $40,482 in its citation of Ohio-based healthcare company OHNH EMP LLC.
“It is critically important that employers take action to protect their employees during the pandemic, including by implementing effective respiratory protection programs,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt said in an agency statement. “OSHA has and will continue to vigorously enforce the respiratory protection standard and all standards that apply to the coronavirus. As Secretary Scalia has said, ‘the cop is on the beat,’” Sweatt added.
While OSHA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have allowed some latitude in respirator use, including the use of expired N95 respirators and emergency authorization for use of foreign-made FFRs that lack National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approval, employers are not exempt from requirements of the respiratory protection standard. (Emphasis added).
The respiratory protection standard includes requirements for written programs, medical evaluation, fit testing, and training.
Ask Public Health Officials for Guidance in Complying.
If an employer institutes a mask requirement in response to orders from a state or local public health agency, it seems reasonable to ask them for help complying with OSHA and other regulations implicated by their orders.
Ask them if they have their own respiratory protection program that you could use as a guide in developing your own.
Please consult with experts (including OSHA-certified trainers) in your jurisdiction to make sure you get this right.
Please note: the above post contains educational information. It is not intended as legal advice. Engage an attorney who is licensed in your state to get advice on dealing with any specific legal issue.
© 2020 Michael S. Oswald