Oregon OSHA Makes Rules For COVID-19 Safety

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration a state agency, not to be confused with the Federal OSHA – has issued temporary COVID-19 control rules for businesses which are reopening. The agency is inviting public comment on what the permanent rules should be between now and Sept. 7.  

Some of the rules will sound familiar. Workers must stand no less than six feet apart, unless separated by impermeable barriers that create a barrier space equivalent to six feet.   

Michael Wood, the administration’s head, told OPB, “The simplest description we’ve been able to come up with is if both individuals … have the end of a 6-foot string in their mouth — if they could do that — then you’re too close.”  

When it’s completely impossible for workers to be that far apart, they must wear face coverings or shields. 

Wood said he was in agreement with the advice and recommendations of Gov. Brown and the Oregon Health Authority, but pointed out, “There are some gaps where there isn’t industry-specific guidance. And the general workplace guidance — it isn’t always clear to folks that it does apply in, say, a manufacturing environment.”  

Wood wants OSHA to provide pandemic-specific rules for all work settings – how far apart people should sit at work stations, in work vehicles, safe ways to interact with customers and contractors, how to handle work in jobs where the risk of exposure is especially high, such as tattoo artists and patient caregivers, and even how to remain safe working at home.  

Many Oregon businesses are already covered by the sick leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and are required to provided sick leave for afflicted employees, and for employees tending to sick family members. This is close to being the first Federal law on sick leave, and is much more generous than sick leave provisions in many states. For Oregon businesses which are not subject to the Act due to their size or type of business, Oregon OSHA calls on them to provide up to two weeks of paid leave to affected workers in addition to regular benefits.  

Submit comments on the proposed Oregon OSHA rules to tech.web@oregon.gov.  

John M. Burt