As part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic in workplaces, OSHA continues to issue alerts and guidance designed to keep workers safe. The most recent guidance issued by OSHA deals with ventilation in the workplace to help maintain a safe and healthy work environment.
Under the guidance, OSHA recommends that employers work with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals to look at ways to improve building ventilation as a way to address the potential hazard of exposure to COVID-19. Enclosed spaces with poor ventilation and air flow can make it more likely for employees to be exposed to potential infection. Studies have also shown that infected droplets can travel farther in areas that are not well ventilated.
To that end, OSHA offers the following tips to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus:
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
- Ensure all HVAC systems are fully functional, especially those shut down or operating at reduced capacity during the pandemic.
- Remove or redirect personal fans to prevent blowing air from one worker to another.
- Use HVAC system filters with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 13 or higher, where feasible.
- Increase the HVAC system’s outdoor air intake. Open windows or other sources of fresh air where possible.
- Be sure exhaust air is not pulled back into the building from HVAC air intakes or open windows.
- Consider using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) fan/filtration systems to increase clean air, especially in higher-risk areas.
- When changing filters, wear appropriate personal protective equipment. ASHRAE recommends N95 respirators, eye protection (safety glasses, goggles, or face shields), and disposable gloves.
- Make sure exhaust fans in restrooms are fully functional, operating at maximum capacity, and are set to remain on.
- Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns.
OSHA continues to issue new alerts and guidance on COVID-19 and the agency is likely to make changes with how it approaches the pandemic next year with the new Biden Administration.
If you have questions, would like additional information, or need assistance, please reach out to the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you often work, or any member of our Workplace Safety and Health Team.