OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Guidance on Workplace Ventilation

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

November 20, 2020

Amid record-breaking numbers of new coronavirus cases across many parts of the US, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued new guidance on ventilation in the workplace.

OSHA stresses that employers should work with a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professional and implement steps to optimize building ventilation. Some of the agency's other tips in the guidance to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus include:

  • Removing or redirecting personal fans to prevent blowing air from one worker to another;
  • Increasing the HVAC system's outdoor air intake;
  • Opening windows or other sources of fresh air where possible;
  • Wearing appropriate personal protective equipment when changing filters (such as safety glasses, goggles or face shields and disposable gloves);
  • Using portable high efficiency fan/filtration systems to increase clean air, especially in higher-risk areas;
  • Ensuring restroom exhaust fans are fully functional; and
  • Encouraging workers to report any safety and health concerns.

OSHA's guidance comes on the heels of a statement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that the coronavirus can travel further than six feet in poorly-ventilated spaces in limited circumstances.

Employers should be aware that President-elect Biden has vowed to issue mandatory workplace safety rules and make OSHA enforcement a priority after taking office on January 20.