OSHA adopts new COVID-19 rules to protect workers

Beginning next Monday, employers have to notify employees if there's been a workplace exposure within 24 hours.

Posted: Nov 9, 2020 7:06 PM

OREGON -- State leaders say that it's clear Oregonians are in for a difficult winter, and new rules will soon go into effect to protect workers.

There have been 8,605 COVID-19 cases in the last week stemming from workplace outbreaks.

On Friday, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) adopted a temporary set of rules to help keep workers safe.

Beginning next Monday, employers have to notify employees if there's been a workplace exposure within 24 hours.

Starting Dec. 7, employers must get input from employees on what they think their hazards are in the workplace and then come up with a plan to cut down on hazards.

Two weeks later, employers have to train employees on how to limit exposure to reduce their risk.

Hospitals and other places that are high risk need to meet air ventilation standards by Jan. 6.

These temporary rules will be in effect until May.

Graham Trainor is the president of Oregon AFL-CIO, a voice for working people in Oregon.

“Going to work shouldn’t be a death sentence,” Trainor said.

He said these new rules have been what workers have been advocating for since the very beginning of the pandemic and that workers need to know what their rights are, especially during these past months.

“We really owe it to the workers,” Trainor said. “Those workers who have risked their lives and have risked their family's lives because they've been forced to make an impossible decision of going to work or staying home.”

Trainor said he’s heard many stories from workers who have felt unsafe or are afraid to speak up -- one being a grocery store worker who did speak up and was told it’s just the “status quo.”

“We're really heartened that the Oregon OSHA’s plan is to immediately roll right into a process that will be to create a permanent rule -- a rule that gives longer-term guidance for the future outbreaks that we may face as a state and as an a economy,” Trainor said.

Trainor said that 19% of COVID-19 infections are workplace-related and that many workplace outbreaks stem from the agriculture business, which plays a major role in the economy.

“This first set of standards is really important,” Trainor said. “It's an immediate need at a really critical time in this pandemic's trajectory to protect workers and to give clear guidance and enforceable standards.

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