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Should I Provide Additional PPE to My Light Industrial Workers Due to COVID-19?

As states start easing up on shelter-in-place orders, more and more companies will be opening and recalling their workers. While this is excellent news for everyone involved, it is incumbent upon these employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for their light industrial employees. COVID-19 might be in the rearview mirror in some parts of the country, but the threat of the virus is far from over.
Here are some suggestions to help you keep your workers safe:

Conduct a workplace hazard assessment

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) declares that each employer must provide a workplace free from known hazards that can cause death or serious physical harm to its workers. The first step is to conduct a workplace hazard assessment “to determine if hazards are present, or are likely to be present, which necessitate the use of personal protective equipment.”

If this assessment indicates that the workplace already has been or is likely to be exposed to COVID-19, then the company is required to move on to step two.

Equip employees with PPE

Every employer is required to provide PPE to its workers “wherever it is necessary by reason of hazards of processes or environment.” While there is nothing in the act that specifically requires them to provide PPE to the entire workforce, employers who determine who does and doesn’t need PPE must do so with reasonable objectivity.

Personal protective equipment for the eyes, face, head, and extremities are critical. These include respiratory devices, protective clothing, shields, and barriers. If respiratory devices are needed, employers must provide NIOSH-certified respirators, such as N95 masks.

Because of shortages that make it difficult for employers to obtain PPE, the Department of Labor (DOL) has asked employers to “reassess engineering controls, work practices, and administrative controls” to “decrease the need for N95 respirators.”

Also, in those cases where there are shortages, the DOL directs that employees may prolong the use or even reuse masks, “as long as the respirator maintains its structural and functional integrity and the filter material is not physically damaged, soiled, or contaminated.”

Safety practices for critical infrastructure workers

To keep essential businesses operating during the coronavirus, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has provided direction for safety practices aimed at “critical infrastructure workers” who might have been exposed to COVID-19.

Among those critical infrastructure workers are:

    • Federal, state, and local law enforcement
    • 911 call center employees;
    • Fusion center workers
    • Hazardous material responders
    • Custodial staff
    • Workers in food and agriculture, critical manufacturing, informational technology, transportation, energy, and government facilities.

These workers may continue to work as long as they remain asymptomatic, and the employer takes additional precautions to protect the entire workplace:

    • Taking the employee’s temperature before the start of work
    • Requiring all employees to “self-monitor under the supervision of their employer’s occupational health program.”
    • Requiring the worker to wear a face mask at all times in the workplace for 14 days after their last exposure
    • Enforcing social distancing standards
    • Cleaning and disinfecting all common areas and shared equipment

We can help you find workers as “normalcy” returns

Lingo Staffing is your resource for your long-term or short-term staffing needs. Contact us, and let’s get moving forward once more.


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