Frequently Asked Questions
This page includes frequently asked questions (FAQs) and answers related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. In States with OSHA-approved State Plans, additional guidance, provisions, or requirements may apply. Check here for a list of current State Plans and a link to their website for any additional information: https://www.osha.gov/stateplans
Are you looking for FAQs related to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare? Go there!
Questions are grouped by topic, and cover:
- General Information
- Cleaning and Disinfection
- Cloth Face Coverings
- Employer Requirements
- Liability Waivers
- Posting the OSHA 300A or Equivalent Form
- Respirators and Particle Size
- Restrooms and Handwashing Facilities
- Return to Work
- Testing for COVID-19
- Vaccine Related
- Worker Protection Concerns
Best practices include conducting a workplace risk assessment for potential COVID-19 exposure, preparing a response plan, and taking steps to improve ventilation. In areas with substantial or high transmission, employers should provide face coverings for all workers, as appropriate, regardless of vaccination status. Employers can also suggest or require that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments, and that all customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. These practices are consistent with CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people to promote public health and workplace health.
OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topics page provides the most recent guidance to help employers protect their workers and comply with OSHA requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources include:
- Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard
- National Emphasis Program – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- List of relevant OSHA standards for COVID-19
- Information on workers' rights
- Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace
- Hazard Recognition and Assessment
- Control and Prevention
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (Guidance) has issued workplace guidance to help employers protect all workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. Employers should assess worker exposure to hazards and risks and implement infection prevention measures, in accordance with CDC and OSHA guidance, to reasonably address them, consistent with OSHA Standards. Such measures could include providing paid time off for workers to get vaccinated; encouraging workers to be vaccinated; having a system for workers to report if they are experiencing symptoms or test positive for COVID-19; use of face coverings by workers; improving ventilation; training workers on COVID-19 policies and procedures; and physical distancing for workers in communal work areas.
Employers subject to OSHA's PPE standards must provide and require the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed. Job hazard assessments for COVID-19 (general job hazard assessment) must be conducted to determine the appropriate type and level of PPE required.
Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace and the Control and Prevention section of the COVID-19 Safety and Health Topics page provide more information on steps employers in workplaces not covered by the ETS for Healthcare can take to reduce workers' risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2.
Cleaning and Disinfection
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides updated information about cleaning and disinfecting. It is important to remember to follow the cleaning chemical manufacturer’s instructions for handling and surface contact time. If your workplace is covered by the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, refer to specific requirements for cleaning and disinfecting within the standard.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on environmental infection control related to cleaning and disinfecting in locations where a COVID-19 positive person has been present.
Companies providing specialized remediation or clean-up services need to have expertise in industrial hygiene (e.g., Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH)) and environmental remediation (e.g., Environmental Safety and Health Professional (ESH)).
Cloth Face Coverings
CDC provides information about face coverings as one type of mask among other types of masks. OSHA differentiates face coverings from the term “mask” and from respirators that meet OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard.
- May be commercially produced or improvised (i.e., homemade).
- Should be made of at least 2 layers of a tightly woven breathable fabric, such as cotton.
- Are worn over the nose and mouth to contain the wearer's potentially infectious respiratory particles produced when they cough, sneeze, or talk and to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), to others.
- Are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Are not appropriate substitutes for PPE such as respirators (e.g., N95 respirators) or medical facemasks (e.g., surgical masks) in workplaces where respirators or facemasks are required to protect the wearer.
- May be used by almost any worker, although those who have trouble breathing or are otherwise unable to put on or remove a mask without assistance should not wear one.
- May be disposable or reusable after proper washing.
- May provide some level of protection for the wearer from others' respiratory particles.
Facemasks:Note: Please see the Healthcare ETS for PPE requirements applicable in settings covered by the standard.
- Facemask means a surgical, medical procedure, dental, or isolation mask that is FDA-cleared, authorized by an FDA EUA, or offered or distributed as described in an FDA enforcement policy. Facemasks may also be referred to as "medical procedure masks."
- Are used to protect workers against splashes and sprays (i.e., droplets) containing potentially infectious materials. In this capacity, surgical masks are considered PPE. Under OSHA's PPE standard at 29 CFR 1910.132 (29 CFR 1926.95 for construction), employers must provide any necessary PPE at no cost to workers.1
- May also be worn to contain the wearer's respiratory particles (e.g., healthcare workers, such as surgeons, wear them to avoid contaminating surgical sites, and dentists and dental hygienists wear them to protect patients).
- May be used by almost anyone.
- Should be properly disposed of after use.
Respirators (e.g., filtering facepieces):Note: Please see the Healthcare ETS including the Mini Respiratory Protection Program, for information about respiratory protection and other PPE requirements applicable in settings covered by the standard.
- Are used to prevent workers from inhaling small particles, including airborne transmissible or aerosolized infectious agents.
- Must be provided and used in accordance with OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard at 29 CFR 1910.134 (29 CFR 1926.103 for construction).
- Must be certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
- Need proper filter material (e.g., N95 or better) and, other than for loose-fitting powered, air purifying respirators (PAPRs), tight fit (to prevent air leaks).
- Require proper training, fit testing, appropriate medical evaluations and monitoring, cleaning, and oversight by a knowledgeable staff member.
- When necessary to protect workers, require a respiratory protection program that is compliant with OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard at 29 CFR 1910.134 (29 CFR 1926.103 for construction). OSHA consultation staff can assist with understanding respiratory protection requirements.
- Filtering Facepiece Respirators (FFRs) may be used voluntarily, if permitted by the employer. If an employer permits voluntary use of FFRs, employees must receive the information contained in Appendix D of OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard at 29 CFR 1910.134 (29 CFR 1926.103 for construction).
1If surgical masks are being used in workplaces not covered by the ETS only as source control—not to protect workers against splashes and sprays (i.e., droplets) containing potentially infectious materials—OSHA's PPE standards do not require employers to provide them to workers. However, the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, requires each employer to furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Control measures may include a combination of engineering and administrative controls, including safe work practices like social distancing. Choosing to ensure use of surgical masks for source control may constitute a feasible means of abatement as part of a control plan designed to address hazards from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Back to Text
OSHA's guidance for Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace advises employers to provide workers with face coverings (i.e. cloth face coverings, surgical masks), unless their work task requires a respirator. Employers should provide face coverings to workers who request them at no cost. Employers may need to provide reasonable accommodation for any workers who are unable to wear or have difficulty wearing certain types of face coverings due to a disability or who need a religious accommodation. In workplaces with employees who are deaf or have hearing deficits, employers should consider acquiring masks with clear coverings over the mouth to facilitate lip-reading.
Cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and are not intended to be used when workers need PPE for protection against exposure to occupational hazards. OSHA's PPE standards do not require employers to provide them.
The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, requires each employer to furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Control measures may include a combination of engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices like physical distancing, and PPE.
OSHA's guidance is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC. In addition to unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers, CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission and notes that fully vaccinated people may appropriately choose to wear a mask in public indoor settings regardless of level of transmission, particularly for people who are at-risk or have someone in their household who is at-risk or not fully vaccinated. Unless otherwise provided by federal, state, or local requirements, workers who are outdoors may opt not to wear face coverings unless they are at risk, for example, if they are immunocompromised. Regardless, all workers should be supported in continuing to wear a face covering if they choose, especially in order to safely work closely with other people.
Note that cloth face coverings are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE) and cannot be used in place of respirators when respirators are otherwise required.
Learn more about cloth face coverings on the CDC website.
Employers may need to provide reasonable accommodation for any workers who are unable to wear or have difficulty wearing certain types of face coverings due to a disability or who need a religious accommodation. In workplaces with employees who are deaf or have hearing deficits, employers should consider acquiring masks with clear coverings over the mouth to facilitate lip-reading.
For information about masking requirements for public transportation conveyances and transportation hubs check with the CDC.
Employers should engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered interventions to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Appropriate mitigation strategies may include both face coverings for workers and the implementation of physical distancing measures for workers in communal areas.
CDC provides guidance on washing face coverings. OSHA suggests following those recommendations, and always washing or discarding cloth face coverings that are visibly soiled.
No. Employers must not use surgical masks or cloth face coverings for construction work when respirators are required to protect the wearer. For additional information about respirator requirements in the construction industry, see the Construction FAQ.
In general, employers should always rely on a hierarchy of controls that first includes efforts to eliminate or substitute out workplace hazards and then uses engineering controls (e.g., ventilation, wet methods), administrative controls (e.g., written procedures, modification of task duration), and safe work practices to prevent worker exposures to respiratory hazards, before relying on personal protective equipment, such as respirators.
No. Medical masks, including surgical masks, are routinely worn by healthcare workers throughout the day as part of their personal protective equipment (PPE) ensembles and do not compromise their oxygen levels or cause carbon dioxide buildup. They are designed to be breathed through and can protect against respiratory droplets, which are typically much larger than tiny carbon dioxide molecules. Consequently, most carbon dioxide molecules will either go through the mask or escape along the mask's loose-fitting perimeter. Some carbon dioxide might collect between the mask and the wearer's face, but not at unsafe levels.
Like medical masks, cloth face coverings are loose-fitting with no seal and are designed to be breathed through. In addition, workers may easily remove their medical masks or cloth face coverings periodically (and when not in close proximity with others) to eliminate any negligible build-up of carbon dioxide that might occur. Cloth face coverings and medical masks can help prevent the spread of potentially infectious respiratory droplets from the wearer to their co-workers, including when the wearer has COVID-19 and does not know it.
Some people have mistakenly claimed that OSHA standards (e.g., the Respiratory Protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.134; the Permit-Required Confined Space standard 29 CFR 1910.146; and the Air Contaminants standard, 29 CFR 1910.1000) apply to the issue of oxygen or carbon dioxide levels resulting from the use of medical masks or cloth face coverings in work settings with normal ambient air (e.g. healthcare settings, offices, retail settings, construction). These standards do not apply to the wearing of medical masks or cloth face coverings in work settings with normal ambient air. These standards would only apply to work settings where there are known or suspected sources of chemicals (e.g., manufacturing facilities) or workers are required to enter a potentially dangerous location (e.g., a large tank or vessel).
No. All OSHA requirements for respiratory protection in construction that were in place before the COVID-19 pandemic remain in place. Under OSHA's Respiratory Protection standard for construction (29 CFR 1926.103), employers must follow 29 CFR 1910.134, the general industry respiratory protection standard. Similarly, employers must continue to follow requirements in other OSHA standards, including those that require respiratory protection to protect workers from exposures to certain chemicals and other hazardous substances.
All employers should conduct risk and hazard assessments for workers and then create infection control plans to address identified hazards. Employers can use OSHA's tools for hazard identification and assessment. In settings covered by the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, employers should consult the standard for specific requirements.
Nothing in a liability waiver prevents or precludes a worker’s right to file a complaint under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The worker continues to have the right to file a safety or health complaint under section 8(f) and/or a retaliation complaint under section 11(c), regardless of any language contained in the waiver.
Posting the OSHA 300A or Equivalent Form
If you are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records, you must post the OSHA 300-A Summary of Work-related Injuries and Illnesses from February 1 through April 30 at your establishment in a conspicuous place or places where notices to employees are customarily posted.
Respirators and Particle Size
Yes, an N95 respirator is effective in protecting workers from the virus that causes COVID-19. "N95" refers to a class of respirator filter that removes at least 95% of very small (0.3 micron) particles from the air. Some people have mistakenly claimed that since the virus that causes COVID-19 is approximately 0.1 microns in size, wearing an N95 respirator will not protect against such a small virus. That mistaken claim appears to result from a misunderstanding of how respirators work.
When an infected person expels the virus into the air by activities like talking, coughing, or sneezing, the airborne particles are composed of more than just the virus. The virus is part of larger particles that are made up of water and other materials such as mucus. These larger particles are easily trapped and filtered out by N95 respirators because they are too big to pass through the filter. This is called mechanical filtration. But mechanical filtration is just one of the ways that respirator filters keep particles from passing through the filter. An electrostatic charge also attracts particles to fibers in the filter, where the particles become stuck. In addition, the smallest particles constantly move around (called "Brownian motion"), and are very likely to hit a filter fiber and stick to it.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) tests respirators using particles that simulate a 0.3 micron diameter because this size particle is most likely to pass through the filter. If worn correctly, the N95 respirator will filter out at least 95% of particles this size. An N95 respirator is more effective at filtering particles that are smaller or larger than 0.3 microns in size.
The N95 respirator filter, as is true for other NIOSH-approved respirators, is very effective at protecting people from the virus causing COVID-19. However, it is important for employers and workers to remember that the respirator only provides the expected protection when used correctly. Respirators, when required, must be used as part of a comprehensive, written respiratory protection program that meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.134 including requirements for medical evaluations, training, and fit testing. The Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for Healthcare also includes requirements for respiratory protection and a Mini Respiratory Protection Program. The Mini Respiratory Protection Program applies to specific circumstances specified under the ETS, generally when workers are not exposed to suspected or confirmed sources of COVID-19 but where respirator use could offer enhanced worker protection.
You may report a fatality or in-patient hospitalization using any one of the following:
- Call the nearest OSHA office;
- Call the OSHA 24-hour hotline at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA); or
- By electronic submission, report online.
Be prepared to supply: Business name; name(s) of employee(s) affected; location and time of the incident; brief description of the incident; and contact person and phone number so that OSHA may follow-up with you (unless you wish to make the report anonymously).
An employee has been hospitalized with a work-related, confirmed case of COVID-19. If the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare does not apply, do I need to report this in-patient hospitalization to OSHA?
Employers must report in-patient hospitalizations for work-related confirmed cases of COVID-19 if the hospitalization occurred within twenty-four (24) hours of an exposure to COVID-19 at work. See 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6). [The employer must report such hospitalization within 24 hours of knowing both that the employee has been in-patient hospitalized and that the reason for the hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19. Thus, if an employer learns that an employee was in-patient hospitalized within 24 hours of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the in-patient hospitalization was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within 24 hours of that determination. See 29 CFR 1904.39(a)(2), (b)(7)-(b)(8).]
Employers should note that 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6)'s limitation only applies to reporting; employers who are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records must still record work-related confirmed cases of COVID-19, as required by 29 CFR 1904.4(a).
For information about reporting requirements under the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, please see Reporting COVID-19 Fatalities and In-Patient Hospitalizations.
Employers must report fatalities for work-related confirmed cases of COVID-19 if the fatality occurred within thirty (30) days of an exposure to COVID-19 at work. See 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6). [The employer must report the fatality within eight hours of knowing both that the employee has died, and that the cause of death was a work-related case of COVID-19. Thus, if an employer learns that an employee died within 30 days of a work-related incident, and determines afterward that the cause of the death was a work-related case of COVID-19, the case must be reported within eight hours of that determination.]
Employers should note that 29 CFR 1904.39(b)(6)'s limitation only applies to reporting; employers who are required to keep OSHA injury and illness records must still record work-related fatalities, as required by 29 CFR 1904.4(a).
For information about reporting requirements under the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, please see Reporting COVID-19 Fatalities and In-Patient Hospitalizations.
Restrooms and Handwashing Facilities
I work as a delivery driver. Many shippers/receivers have changed their policies regarding driver access to their facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic and have forbidden use of their restrooms. Is there an OSHA requirement that shippers/receivers provide restrooms for truck drivers?
You should talk to your supervisor about alternatives for restroom breaks along your driving route.
Your employer (not the shipper/receiver) is required to make sure you do not suffer adverse health effects that could result from lack of access to a toilet. OSHA has sanitation standards (29 CFR 1910.141, 29 CFR 1926.51, 29 CFR 1928.110, 29 CFR 1915.88, and 29 CFR 1917.127) intended to ensure that workers do not suffer adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not sanitary and/or are not available when needed. However, some of these standards may not apply to mobile crews, or normally unattended work locations, so long as those locations have transportation immediately available to nearby toilet and sanitation facilities.
Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 USC 660(c)) prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for exercising a variety of rights guaranteed under the law, such as filing a safety or health complaint with OSHA, raising a health and safety concern with their employers, participating in an OSHA inspection, or reporting a work-related injury or illness. Additionally, OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the provisions of more than 20 industry-specific federal laws protecting employees from retaliation for raising or reporting concerns about hazards or violations of various airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, securities, tax, antitrust, and anti-money laundering laws. Also see the anti-retaliation provisions in the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare.
If you believe you have suffered such retaliation, submit a whistleblower complaint to OSHA as soon as possible in order to ensure that you file the complaint within the legal time limits, some of which may be as short as 30 days from the date you learned of or experienced retaliation. An employee can file a complaint with OSHA by visiting or calling his or her local OSHA office; sending a written complaint via fax, mail, or email to the closest OSHA office; or filing a complaint online. No particular form is required and complaints may be submitted in any language.
Visit OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program website for more information.
OSHA's recordkeeping regulation, 29 CFR 1904.35, also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses. See 29 CFR 1904.35(b)(1)(iv). The purpose of this provision is to improve the completeness and accuracy of injury and illness data by allowing OSHA to issue citations to employers who retaliate against their employees for reporting an injury or illness and thereby discourage or deter accurate reporting of work-related injuries or illnesses. If you believe that you have suffered retaliation for reporting a work-related injury or illness, submit a safety and health complaint to OSHA as soon as possible because any citations issued for a violation of this provision must be issued within six months of the date of the adverse action.
Return to Work
Testing for COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about testing for COVID-19, including who should be tested and what actions to take based on test results.
Workers who test positive for COVID-19 will be notified of their results by their healthcare providers or public health department and will likely be advised to self-isolate or seek medical care. OSHA recommends that workers tell their supervisors if they have tested positive for COVID-19 so that employers can take steps to protect other workers. Such steps can include cleaning and disinfection and removing or isolating the COVID-19 positive worker (e.g., by allowing that worker to telework). Employers who become aware of a case among their workers should:
- Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for community-related exposure to someone with known or suspected COVID-19.
- Follow CDC recommendations for when employees can return to work after having COVID-19.
- Follow CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations to protect other employees.
In settings covered by the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, employers should consult the standard for requirements on employee notification, medical removal, and medical removal protection benefits.
Where the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare does not apply, OSHA does not require employers to notify other employees if one of their coworkers gets COVID-19. However, employers must take appropriate steps to protect other workers from exposure to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the workplace. These steps might include specific actions as a result of a confirmed case, such as and removing or isolating the COVID-19 positive worker such as by allowing telework, cleaning and disinfecting the work environment, notifying other workers to monitor themselves for signs/symptoms of COVID-19, or implementing a screening program in the workplace (e.g., for signs/symptoms of COVID-19 among workers).
The CDC Guidance for Business and Employers recommends employers determine which employees may have been exposed to the virus and inform employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. However, employers should maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the information disclosed and method of disclosure must comply with applicable federal, state, and local laws.
In settings covered by the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, employers should consult the standard for employee notification requirements.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences offers training resources for workers and employers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides training resources specific to healthcare.
The training that is necessary can vary depending on a worker's job tasks, exposure risks, and the type of controls in place to protect workers. Training should be provided in languages and at literacy levels employees understand. See OSHA's Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace for more information.
In settings covered by the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, employers should consult the standard for training requirements.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, employers should train workers in a language and literacy level they understand about:
- The basics of how SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads and the importance of physical distancing (including remote work), ventilation, vaccination, use of face coverings, and hand hygiene;
- Workplace policies and procedures implemented to protect workers from COVID-19 hazards;
- What employees should do if they are sick, including staying home and reporting any signs/symptoms of COVID-19 to their supervisor; and
- Workers' rights to a safe and healthful work environment, whom to contact with questions or concerns about workplace safety and health, and workers' rights to raise workplace safety and health concerns free from retaliation.
Some OSHA standards require employers to provide specific training to workers. For example, there are training requirements in OSHA's PPE standards (29 CFR Part 1910, Subpart I), including the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
The training that is necessary can vary depending on a worker's job tasks, exposure risks, and the type of controls implemented to protect workers. See OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topics page for more information.
In settings covered by the Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare, employers should consult the standard for training requirements.
Yes. Outreach trainers should contact their OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Center to request an exception. The OSHA Outreach Training Program provides workers with basic (10-hr) and more advanced (30-hr) training about common safety and health hazards on the job
DOL and OSHA, as well as other federal agencies, are working diligently to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. OSHA does not wish to have any appearance of discouraging workers from receiving COVID-19 vaccination, and also does not wish to disincentivize employers' vaccination efforts. As a result, OSHA will not enforce 29 CFR 1904's recording requirements to require any employers to record worker side effects from COVID-19 vaccination at least through May 2024. We will reevaluate the agency’s position at that time to determine the best course of action moving forward.
Worker Protection Concerns
Under federal law, you are entitled to a safe workplace. Your employer must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. If you have concerns, you have the right to speak up about them without fear of retaliation.
If you believe you are being exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, or that your employer is not taking appropriate steps to protect you from exposure to the virus at work, talk to your supervisor or employer about your concerns. OSHA provides recommendations for measures workers and employers can take to prevent exposures and infections.
You have the right to file a complaint if you feel you are being exposed to a serious health or safety hazard. If you have suffered retaliation because you voiced concerns about a health or safety hazard, you have the right to file a whistleblower protection complaint.
If you believe you have contracted COVID-19 on the job, OSHA recommends several steps you should take, including notifying your supervisor. Your employer can take actions that will keep others in your workplace healthy and may be able to offer you leave flexibilities while you are away from work.
Visit OSHA's Workers page to learn more.
Generally, your employer may require you to come to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some government emergency orders may affect which businesses can remain open during the pandemic.
Under federal law, you are entitled to a safe workplace. Your employer must provide a safe and healthful workplace. If you have concerns, you have the right to speak up about them without fear of retaliation.
Under section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, a worker who refused to work would be protected from retaliation if:
- The worker believes that they faced death or serious injury (and the situation is so clearly hazardous that any reasonable person would believe the same thing);
- The worker tried, where possible, to get his or her employer to correct the condition, was unable to obtain a correction, and there is no other way to do the job safely; or
- The situation is so urgent that the worker does not have time to eliminate the hazard through regulatory channels, such as calling OSHA.
See 29 CFR 1977.12(b) for more information.
You have the right to file a complaint if you are required to work and believe you are being exposed to a serious health or safety hazard. If you have suffered retaliation because you voiced concerns about a health or safety hazard, you have the right to file a whistleblower protection complaint. No particular form is required and complaints may be submitted in any language.
Visit OSHA's Workers page to learn more.
If you believe that your health and safety are in danger, you (or your representative) have the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint with OSHA.
My workplace does not typically use disinfectants to clean and disinfect our workplace but has implemented those practices in the wake of COVID-19. Are there any rules or guidance about using these types of chemicals (other than following the instructions on the product's label)?
Workers who clean the workplace must be protected from exposure to hazardous chemicals used in these tasks. Employers must conduct a hazard assessment and, based on the results, provide the appropriate protective equipment for using disinfectants and other chemicals. Employers may also need to implement a hazard communication program that provides safety data sheets, container labels, and training on the hazards of the chemicals in the workplace, in compliance with OSHA's Hazard Communication standard at 29 CFR 1910.1200 (29 CFR 1926.59 for construction).
This guidance may not be applicable in State Plans. https://www.osha.gov/stateplans. This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations. It contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to comply with safety and health standards and regulations promulgated by OSHA or by a state with an OSHA-approved state plan. In addition, the Act's General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.