During the pandemic, employers need to know that most OSHA regulations remain in full force.
The agency has released a guidance called Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, which it developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
The guidance recommends safe work practices and personal protective equipment (PPE) based on different levels of exposure and other risk factors.
It identifies a range of levels of risk exposure: Very High – for those employees with a high potential for exposure, such as doctors or healthcare personnel who have direct contact with COVID-19 patients, to Lower Exposure Risk – workplaces which do not involve frequent contact with the outside public or COVID-19 patients.
For each level of risk exposure, the guidance details the steps it recommends that employers can implement to best manage the risk of exposure.
Although the guidance does not create new legal obligations for employers, all of the old ones remain in place. The unique circumstances created by our new world of work inevitably raise questions about how OSHA regulations will be enforced in the future for actions taken by employers today.
While the “common cold and flu” do not have to be recorded on an OSHA 300 log, circumstances have changed how OSHA views the Coronavirus flu.
OSHA has taken the position that COVID-19 should not be treated, for recording purposes like the common cold or flu. OSHA states its position on recordkeeping in a section of its website.
OSHA rules also extend to employees who are required to work at home (see article on Page 5).
Chem Indicator Shows Recession
The Chemical Activity Barometer fell 2.6% in March on a three-month moving average basis, following a downwardly revised 0.1% gain in February.
The unadjusted data shows an 8.0% decline in March following a 1.1% decline in February and a 1.2% gain in January, according to the American Chemistry Council’s monthly report, which is historically seen as a leading economic indicator.
The unadjusted decline in March is the largest in the post-World War II period. “The CAB signals recessionary conditions in U.S. commerce,” said Kevin Swift, the council’s chief economist.
“ACC believes a recession to be occurring when the barometer declines for three consecutive months and falls 3.0% or more from the peak,” he added. “As of March, the CAB has declined for two straight months and fallen 8.9% from the peak.”
The diffusion index slumped to 27% in March. This index marks the number of positive contributors relative to the total number of indicators monitored.
The CAB reading for February was revised downward by 1.13 points and the CAB for January was revised downward by 0.38 points. ACC also has reported a decline in global chemicals production for February (AA, 3-31-20, P. 4).
CAB’s four main components, each consisting of a variety of indicators, are: production; equity prices; product prices; and inventories and other indicators.
Production-related indicators generally declined in March. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were generally negative.
Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were generally negative. Performance chemistry was negative and U.S. exports were weak. Equity prices collapsed, but were improving recently. Product and input prices declined. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were negative.