OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Rules

By: Carl Habekost, Esq.

The states of Virginia and Michigan have recently enacted emergency rules designed to protect workers from risks associated with COVID-19.  Both Virginia and Michigan operate state-approved OSHA programs.  The emergency rules have similar provisions and probably signal forthcoming legislation in other state-operated OSHA programs. Federal OSHA was petitioned to promulgate an emergency temporary COVID-19 standard but the agency declined to do so.  Further, a recent effort by the AFL-CIO in the U.S. Court of Appeals to force federal OSHA to enact a COVID-19 rule was unsuccessful. However, we expect federal OSHA to reconsider its position in the near future and to promulgate a temporary emergency COVID-19 standard with similar provisions to the Virginia and Michigan programs. Therefore, it is worthwhile to review the basic elements of these emergency COVID-19 rules.

Key requirements of the Virginia and Michigan emergency rules for all employers are:

  • Employers must prepare a written COVID-19 plan consistent with CDC and OSHA guidance.
    • The plan must include documented analysis of employee exposure, categories of jobs into risk levels consistent with the OSHA pyramid of risk, and detailed measures to prevent employee exposure.
    • All employees must have access to the written COVID-19 plan.
  • Employers must implement basic infection prevention measures such as handwashing, requiring sick employees to stay home and not report to work, prohibit employees from sharing high-touch items such as phones and keyboards, procedures for cleaning the disinfecting the work environment, and encouraging remote work when feasible.
  • Employers must conduct daily screenings of employees and contractors including a questionnaire about exposure to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, and temperature checks if at all possible.
  • Employers must prepare a written process for contacting the local health department about a known case of COVID-19 involving an employee, contractor, or customer.
  • Employers must notify as soon as possible, and no later than 24 hours, employees, contractors, and visitors who may have come into contact with a known case of COVID-19.
  • Employers must designate COVID-19 safety coordinators.
  • Employers must provide face coverings at no cost to employees and require employees to wear face coverings in open and shared spaces.
  • Employers must provide employees with documented training on COVID-19 which includes workplace infection control practices such as proper hand washing techniques and social distancing, the proper use of facial coverings and PPE, steps to report to management and supervisors of COVID-19 symptoms or a known case of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions.

These are not all-inclusive requirements of the emergency COVID-19 rules but are important highlights. The takeaway for employers is the importance of creating a written COVID-19 response plan and documented training on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. Please contact a member of our Labor & Employment Section with questions or concerns.


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