Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Apr 09, 2020

WASHINGTON: DOSH implements COVID-19 workplace enforcement

COVID-19Safety and Health 

Washington’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) has issued a directive to its safety compliance officers outlining the standards for evaluating workplace safety measures to protect workers from COVID-19 (coronavirus). DOSH compliance officers who inspect the workplace will generally expect you to have the following basic measures in place:

  1. Educate workers (and customers, if present in the workplace) about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread. You may do so by displaying government posters and informing workers of the specific steps being taken in your workplace.
  2. Maintain at least six feet of spacing between workers at all times. The directive offers several ideas for doing so, including providing mailboxes for transfers of products between workers.
  3. Regularly clean the area and frequently clean common-touch surfaces. For surfaces that are porous or otherwise difficult to clean, you may need to cover them with something that can be cleaned easily.
  4. Workers must have ready access to running water and soap. The water should have both a hot and cold option or else should be tepid (i.e., cold water alone isn’t good enough). Workers must be able to wash their hands after touching anything suspected of being contaminated, before and after using the restroom, before and after eating, and before touching their face.
  5. Have a system in place to prevent sick employees from coming to work and to clean work areas after a sick person has been present.  

If any of the basic steps above aren’t practical, then employers must consider possible alternative strategies. The directive offers a number of ideas, including health monitoring of incoming workers. The directive also establishes special considerations for businesses that provide housing to their workers and for businesses with extensive public interaction.

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 the agency issues citations, they’ll be based on existing regulatory standards, including WAC 296-800-140 “Accident Prevention Program” (for failing to communicate workplace-specific expectations to employees); WAC 296-800-22005 “Keep your workplace clean” (for failure to implement appropriate cleaning protocols); WAC 296-800-23025 “provide convenient and clean washing facilities” (for having nonexistent or grossly inadequate handwashing stations); and “Protect employees from biological agents” (for failing to implement appropriate social distancing protocols). Need help on safety compliance? 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.