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Apr 30, 2020

WASHINGTON: DOSH addresses returning after COVID-19 exposure

COVID-19Safety and Health 

Washington’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) issued an updated directive to its safety compliance officers, effective April 27, 2020, which incorporates guidance on when it’s okay to allow essential workers to return after a potential exposure to COVID-19 (coronavirus). This directive supersedes the April 7 version on which we previously reported.

A “potential exposure” means household contact or close contact within six feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, when the contact occurred while the individual exhibited symptoms or within 48 hours before they developed symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines “close contact” as (1)  being within approximately six feet of a person with COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time; or (2) having direct contact with infectious secretions from a person with COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on), if the contact occurs while the employee isn’t wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. Workers who have been exposed should be asked to self-quarantine, if possible. As the employer, you should also determine whether it’s appropriate for the worker to return to the workplace, or whether other options such as teleworking are possible.

In addition to generally recommended safety precautions, DOSH compliance officers will expect you to take these measures when an essential employee returns to the workplace after potential exposure:

  1. Check the employee’s temperature and assess symptoms before they start work, ideally before entering the facility.
  2. Require the employee to self-monitor throughout the shift, and have your occupational health program supervise the self-monitoring. Employers without an occupational health program may consult with a physician or public health service for guidance on monitoring the employee.
  3. Maintain at least six feet of separation from the employee at all times, including during breaks, or establish other controls to protect coworkers (the directive offers several ideas).
  4. Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting common areas, shared equipment, and commonly touched surfaces. Don’t allow employees to share headsets or other objects near the mouth or nose.

Tips For Employers: DOSH recognizes that health guidelines continue to evolve, so it will take that into account when evaluating a workplace for compliance. If you need help with safety compliance or ideas to protect returning workers, contact your Vigilant safety professional.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.