OSHA Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for Coronavirus

March 16, 2020
OSHA has published “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” to help companies respond in the event of coronavirus in the workplace. The guidance was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS).
The document provides practical guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, and contains information on safe work practices and appropriate personal protective equipment based on the risk level of exposure.
“Protecting the health and safety of America’s workforce is a key component of this Administration’s comprehensive approach to combating the coronavirus,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt. “This guidance outlines practical ways that employers and workers can address potential health risks from the coronavirus in their workplaces.”
This guidance is part of the Department of Labor’s ongoing efforts to educate the workers and employers about the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • In addition to the guidance, OSHA recently launched a COVID-19 webpage that provides infection prevention information specifically for workers and employers, and is actively reviewing and responding to any complaints regarding workplace protection from novel coronavirus, as well as conducting outreach activities.
  • The Wage and Hour Division is providing information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19, including effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has also published guidance for federal employees and outlines Federal Employees’ Compensation Act coverage as it relates to the novel coronavirus.
For further information about Coronavirus, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Environmental Resource Center Update
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have combined our Safety and Environmental Tips of the week.  This issue includes some of the latest recommendations for you to keep safe at work and at home in this evolving event.
The health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and our communities is what matters most to all of us. Our offices remain open and our seminars are continuing as scheduled in a manner that protects everyone’s safety. We are working with each training site to ensure that conditions are sanitary, there is room for social distancing, and we will implement additional precautions as they are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, World Health Organization and local governments. For customers that have been exposed, had potential exposure, or cannot travel, we have added additional online training sessions to meet your training requirements. You can find a list of upcoming live webcasts at this link.
Should You Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer?
Washing your hands is easy, and it’s an effective way to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Clean hands can stop many viruses and germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout your community—from your home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals.
Follow these five steps every time you wash your hands:
  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, fingertips, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
If you can’t wash your hands, a sanitizer such as Purell or Germ-X is a great second line of defense, but sanitizers are in short supply or unavailable in many areas.  To alleviate this problem, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a recipe that you can use to make your own sanitizer.  Unfortunately, the ingredients are also in short supply, but if you can get them, you can make your own. Here’s the recipe:
  • 1 cup of 99% isopropyl alcohol
  • 1 tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 teaspoon of 98% glycerin
  • 85 milliliters (1 cup plus t tablespoon and one teaspoon) of sterile or boiled then cooled water
Put the mixture into small plastic bottles and let them sit for 72 hours. This allows time for any spores present in the new/re-used bottles to be destroyed.  If you can only find a lower concentration of isopropyl alcohol, reduce the proportion of water proportionately so that your final alcohol concentration is not under 60%. There are also recipes for using ethanol and a gel with aloe vera.
The purpose of the glycerin in the recipe is to moisturize your skin.  If you don’t have access to glycerin, you can omit it, but after using the revised recipe you should moisturize your skin with hand cream. You must avoid drying out your skin which could create fissures, which could be potential pathways for infection.
Now that you have made your own hand sanitizer, how should it be used?  Apply an ample amount to the palm of your hand and then spread it around all of your fingers, finger tips, and the back of your hand.  Rub all of these surfaces for at least 30 seconds until your hands are dry.
When should you wash your hands?  According to the CDC:
  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
Keep in mind that hand washing not only protects you, but by washing your hands you are helping to protect your family, coworkers, and your community. So, don’t skip it, even if you feel healthy.
In situations where hand washing isn’t feasible, such as after touching door handles, grocery carts, or other surfaces in public spaces, using a hand sanitizer can give you some needed protection. Although alcohol based sanitizers are effective for the Coronavirus, they have not been shown effective for norovirus, cryptosporidium, or clostridium difficile.
EPA Expands COVID-19 Disinfectant List
EPA has released an expanded list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The list contains nearly 200 additional products—including 40 new products that went through the agency’s expedited review process. The agency also made key enhancements to the web-based list to improve its usefulness.
“During this pandemic, it’s important that people can easily find the information they’re looking for when choosing and using a surface disinfectant,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With this expanded list, EPA is making sure Americans have greater access to as many effective and approved surface disinfectant products as possible and that they have the information at their fingertips to use them effectively.”
While disinfectant products on this list have not been tested specifically against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, they are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 because they have been tested and proven effective on either a harder-to-kill virus or against another human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2.
The product list has also been updated to include the product’s active ingredient and the amount of time the surface should remain wet to be effective against the given pathogen.
To make the list more consumer friendly, information in the table is now sortable, searchable and printable, and can be easily viewed on a mobile device.
These additions make it easier for consumers to find surface disinfectants and instructions for using them effectively against SARS-CoV-2.
To view the list of EPA-registered disinfectant products, visit https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2.
Drinking Water Protections Against COVID-19
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) wants residents to know that their public water supply is safe. In the case of quarantine or outbreak related to the coronavirus, public drinking water systems are designed to continuously deliver safe drinking water to your tap.
“Drinking water treatment and disinfection has effectively protected Utah’s population for many decades. These protections will safeguard residents against drinking-water-borne viral infections—including coronavirus,” says Marie Owens, Director of DEQ’s Division of Drinking Water. “There is no need for residents to stock up on surplus bottled water in preparation for a potential outbreak of coronavirus.”
Scammers Ordered to Stop Selling Fake Coronavirus Treatments
New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered Alex Jones to immediately cease and desist selling and marketing products as a treatment or cure for the coronavirus. Alex Jones through his website has been marketing and selling toothpaste, dietary supplements, creams, and several other products as treatments to prevent and cure the coronavirus. Jones fraudulently claims that these products are a “stopgate” against the virus and that the United States government has said his Superblue Toothpaste “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.” There is currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccine to prevent the disease or treatment to cure it and the World Health Organization has also said that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat this disease.
“As the coronavirus continues to pose serious risks to public health, Alex Jones has spewed outright lies and has profited off of New Yorkers’ anxieties,” said Attorney General James. “Mr. Jones’ public platform has not only given him a microphone to shout inflammatory rhetoric, but his latest mistruths are incredibly dangerous and pose a serious threat to the public health of New Yorkers and individuals across the nation. If these unlawful violations do not cease immediately, my office will not hesitate to take legal action and hold Mr. Jones accountable for the harm he’s caused. Any individual, company, or entity that deceives the public and preys on innocent civilians will pay for their unlawful actions.”
Attorney General James sent cease and desist orders to two companies that claim their products are also treatments for the coronavirus. The first notice was sent to The Silver Edge company, which claims its Micro-Particle Colloidal Silver Generator “beats coronavirus” and that there is “clinical documentation” to prove it. The second notice was sent to Dr. Sherrill Sellman,who has been marketing colloidal silver products as a cure for coronavirus and selling them on her website and on the Jim Bakker Show. Attorney General James recently ordered the Jim Bakker Show to stop marketing Dr. Sellman’s colloidal silver products for the same reason.
In addition to this fraud, Jones also makes deeply deceptive claims about the benefits and medicinal powers of nano silver or colloidal silver — the main medicinal ingredient in his products. According to the National Institutes of Health, colloidal silver can actually be dangerous to a person’s health, and the FDA has warned that colloidal silver is not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition. Countless scientific studies have also determined that there is no evidence to support the use of colloidal silver as a treatment for any disease or condition.
Attorney General James has also issued cease and desist notifications to multiple businesses in New York for charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, and rubbing alcohol — a violation of New York’s price gouging statute. That statute prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market.
The NY Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is continuing to surveil and monitor businesses for potential scams and price gouging schemes designed to exploit public concern related to the spread of the coronavirus. Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. If you believe you have been the victim of a scam or have witnessed potential price gouging, please report these incidents to the NY OAG or the Attorney General in your state.
Oregon OSHA Offers Spanish-Language Online Fall Protection Training
Oregon OSHA has launched a free Spanish-language online training course to help employers and workers fulfill the agency’s requirements to eliminate fall hazards, prevent falls, and ensure that workers who do fall do not die.
The course, “Fundamentals of Fall Protection,” is designed to supplement employers’ fall protection training programs. It provides an overview of the rules, features interviews with experts, and provides links to more resources. Moreover, the course defines what fall protection means; walks viewers through fall protection options; delves into equipment inspection and maintenance; and shows viewers how to begin using fall protection.
Offering the course in Spanish is part of Oregon OSHA’s ongoing work to build on longstanding initiatives such as the PESO bilingual training program and other Spanish-language computer-based training. And it follows the division’s first-ever Spanish-language safety conference, presented last fall.
“Understanding how to protect yourself in a hazardous workplace can be challenging at the best of times, but doing so when English is not your first language presents another barrier,” said Roy Kroker, consultation and public education manager for Oregon OSHA. “The Spanish version of our Fundamentals of Fall Protection course aims to help break down that barrier and increase on-the-job safety.”
The Spanish-language Fundamentals course – which includes the opportunity to receive a certificate of completion – is available online. Also see these Spanish-language courses.
Court Approves Settlement Requiring EPA Rules on Most Dangerous Chemical Spills
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York approved a consent decree between the EPA and a coalition of community and environmental organizations, including the Environmental Justice Health Alliance for Chemical Policy Reform (EJHA), Clean Water Action, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The consent decree requires EPA to issue long-overdue rules requiring robust hazardous substance spill-prevention and response planning for the most dangerous chemical facilities – which, because of their proximity to water, pose a serious threat to human health and the environment. Under the agreement, the agency must issue proposed rules within 2 years, and finalize them 2.5 years after that. This represents a victorious end to the federal lawsuit the organizations filed against EPA in March of 2019 for failing to issue these regulations for nearly thirty years, despite a clear mandate from Congress in the 1990 amendments to the Clean Water Act.
"The sad reality of fence line and frontline communities is that toxic chemical facilities are permitted to disproportionately burden them with billions of pounds of toxic pollution, while at the same time putting them at risk of devastating incidents like the recent back to back explosions in Houston,” said Michele Roberts, National Co-Coordinator of the Environmental Justice Health Alliance (EJHA). "Fence line communities know that it’s not if, but when the next chemical leak, spill or flooding event will happen, and the cumulative impacts of these tragic events are unjustly borne by people of color and low-income residents. EPA's mission is to protect our health and the environment. It is way beyond time for EPA to exercise the moral and political courage to protect these overburdened communities from the daily assaults on their health and quality of life."
“The need is greater now than ever for the EPA to issue decisive rules that require industries to protect our communities from the dangers they pose,” said José Bravo, Executive Director of Just Transition Alliance, an affiliate of EJHA. “We have been waiting 30 years for the EPA to act. As we see more and worsening weather events, the need for prevention and protection will continue to grow. The EPA will finally be mandated to protect our communities once and for all.”
"Finally, EPA will act to make sure extreme weather events and other worst case scenarios don't result in drinking water contamination and water pollution. This was what Congress intended and is part of the unfinished business of the landmark Clean Water Act," said Lynn Thorp, Clean Water Action’s National Campaigns Director.
“This is a victory for the millions of people who live in fear of experiencing catastrophic chemical spills in their own backyards,” said Kaitlin Morrison, Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “This consent decree holds EPA to the rule of law and protects fenceline communities from preventable toxic chemical exposures.”
EPA’s failure to establish worst-case scenario spill planning regulations for chemical facilities like aboveground storage tanks storing hazardous substances has left a substantial gap in environmental and public health protections from chemical spills. An estimated 2,500 U.S. chemical facilities located in flood-prone areas nationwide are subject only to state-level worst-case spill-planning requirements – which, if they exist at all, are vulnerable to rollback at any time.
Hurricane Harvey highlighted this glaring regulatory gap – despite Houston’s density of chemical facilities and susceptibility to severe flooding, Texas does not require facilities storing hazardous substances to develop specific plans for how to prevent and respond to worst-case scenario spills, including those caused by storms and natural disasters. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, numerous facilities released harmful chemicals through spills, leaks and explosions, causing some first responders to be hospitalized. Once the worst-case scenario spill plans are in place at those facilities, many of these exposures and injuries could be avoided.
Ensuring that EPA fully complies with its duty to issue spill-prevention and response regulations will reduce the risk of environmental and health harms from preventable chemical spills and help address the long-standing disproportionate burdens that chemical production and storage impose on fence line communities, where most residents are low-income or people of color.
Pipeline Required to Pay Over $60 Million in Penalties, Cleanup Costs and Natural Resource Assessment Costs and Damages
The Department of Justice announced a civil settlement with Plains All American Pipeline L.P. and Plains Pipeline L.P. (Plains) arising out of Plains’ violations of the federal pipeline safety laws and liability for the May 19, 2015, discharge of approximately 2,934 barrels of crude oil from Plains’ Line 901 immediately north of Refugio State Beach, located near Santa Barbara, California.
The discharge was caused by Plains’ failure to address external corrosion and have adequate control-room procedures in place, and was further exacerbated by Plains’ failure to respond properly to the release.  The crude oil discharge resulted in the oiling of Refugio State Beach, the Pacific Ocean, and other shorelines and beaches, resulted in beach and fishing closures and adversely impacted natural resources such as birds, fish, marine mammals and shoreline and subtidal habitat.  The United States worked closely with co-plaintiff the state of California, and both the United States and California are signatories to the complaint and the consent decree.
The complaint seeks injunctive relief, penalties, natural resource damages and assessment costs, and response costs for the United States, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the U.S. Department of the Interior; the Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard.  The United States’ claims are under the federal pipeline safety laws, the Clean Water Act, and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.
The settlement requires Plains to implement injunctive relief to improve Plains’ nationwide pipeline system and bring it into compliance with the federal pipeline safety laws, in addition to addressing unique threats and modifying operations that caused the Line 901 oil spill; pay $24 million in penalties; pay $22.325 million in natural resource damages, and $10 million for reimbursed natural resource damage assessment costs; and pay $4.26 million for reimbursed Coast Guard clean-up costs.  Excluding the value of the required injunctive relief changes to Plains’ national operations, the settlement in conjunction with reimbursed costs is valued in excess of $60 million.
“Today’s settlement shows federal and local governments working in partnership to hold industry fairly accountable,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Gelber for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “The agreement will also promote public health and safety, and protect the environment for local communities.”
“This case is a classic example of why the Clean Water Act authorizes penalties for harmful oil discharges,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine.  “With this settlement, EPA, along with its federal and state partners, is holding Plains accountable for the damage they caused to natural resources.”   
“We are pleased to join this agreement with industry and our co-trustees to help restore vital habitats, wildlife and recreational areas injured by this oil spill,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, acting director of NOAA's National Ocean Service.  “Local communities and economies depend on these ecosystems, and we look forward to working with the public on projects to restore them to health.”
The section of the California coast affected by the Plains 901 Line oil spill Refugio has one of the most diverse and abundant assemblages of marine organisms in the world.  A rich array of marine and coastal habitats including the open ocean, rocky shores, sandy beaches and kelp forests, support a diverse array and large numbers of marine fish, marine mammals and seabirds. 
The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period that begins with the posting of a notice in the Federal Register.
Louisiana DEQ Conference and Trade Fair Postponed
The Louisiana Solid Waste Association and the LDEQ have been closely monitoring and evaluating the spread of the coronavirus and the concerns of all involved with the upcoming LA Environmental Conference and Trade Fair. The health and safety of attendees, speakers, exhibitors and staff must be our top priority. As a result, LSWA is rescheduling the LA Environmental Conference and Trade Fair to September 16-18, 2020, in Lafayette, LA.
This decision was made after consulting with LSWA Officers/Board Members, LDEQ Secretary Chuck Carr Brown, exhibitors, attendees and others. It was unanimously agreed upon that rescheduling the conference is the responsible and prudent decision and is consistent with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health agencies’ recommendations to limit large gatherings.
Current registrations will be transferred and any additional conference-related information will be posted at the LSWA website at www.LSWA.us.
Concord Oil Co. Assessed Penalty for Failing to Report Drinking Water Well Contamination at Harvard Residence
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) announced it has assessed a $20,240 penalty to Concord Oil Co., Inc. of Concord after the company failed to promptly report the detection of petroleum compounds in a private water supply well, failed to conduct an Immediate Response Action to address the contamination, and failed to continually assess site conditions for the need to conduct an Immediate Response Action at a residence in Harvard, Mass.
After an audit of cleanup actions conducted by the company to address the release of oil at its bulk fuel storage facility on Depot Road in Harvard, MassDEP asked the company to sample private water supplies in the vicinity. The company found petroleum contamination in a private water sample, but failed to promptly report the discovery to MassDEP or undertake an Immediate Response Action to address the potential human health exposure.
“People conducting response actions to address a release of oil to the environment must continue to assess possible exposures to human health, including periodic sampling of nearby private wells,” said MassDEP Regional Director Mary Jude Pigsley. “Sample results that identify contaminants in a private well must be promptly reported to the Department and immediate action must be undertaken to mitigate potential or actual exposure.”
Metal Recycling Facilities Fined $65,000 for Mismanaging Hazardous Waste
A yearlong investigation by the Department of Toxic Substances Control into a metal recycling company found it mismanaged hazardous waste at facilities in Hanford and Visalia, California.
The company, Vrede Recycling Inc., will pay $65,000 in fines for its failure to properly handle hazardous waste from appliances and other materials during processing. Owners of Vrede Recycling, doing business as 84 Recycling, were sentenced for misdemeanor charges in Kings County in February, and will also pay fees and perform community service. The Kings County District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with the California District Attorneys Association, prosecuted the case, which included guilty pleas to nine misdemeanors.
An investigation by DTSC’s Office of Criminal Investigations found the company did not follow proper recycling procedures, and as a result contaminated soil with used oil, toxic levels of heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
As part of the sentencing, the facility operators agreed to remove contaminated soil stockpiled at the Visalia facility. They will also implement a dust suppression plan at both locations and investigate and remove contamination that might be present at the Hanford location.
This investigation stems from DTSC’s Enhanced Enforcement in Vulnerable Communities Initiative, which protects California’s most vulnerable and environmentally burdened communities. The environmental justice initiative also deters recycling companies from taking shortcuts by bypassing crucial hazardous waste laws that protect the public and environment from the dangers of harmful materials found in discarded appliances.
DTSC led the investigation in cooperation with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Kings and Tulare county environmental health departments.
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