Opposed to VOSH permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention: SARS-CoV-2 Virus That Causes C
Objection to “face covering” requirements:
At this time face coverings are a recommendation by the CDC. They are not any federal guidelines from the CDC, only recommendations.
As the recommend CDC face covering are not an item of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). (i.e., designed, tested and approved to an actual performance standard such as respiratory protection) what does VOSH deem an acceptable face covering and why? The wide range of what is considered an effective and acceptable face covering needs to be defined in the standard and not left to interpretation of a compliance officer.
The wearing of a face covering is not defined. How to wear a face covering needs to be defined, as many wear it over their chin, mouth but not over their nose, etc.
If the intent of VOSH is to regulate face coverings, the standard needs to clearly define the what is an acceptable face covering, and how it is to be worn, and medical conditions that would preclude one from the requirement. Not everyone can wear a respirator, and in many ways a face covering is as restrictive on ones breathing. If it is the intention of VOSH to enforce a face covering requirement, why not step up to making N95 Respirator Use (with exhale valves – not useable in the medical profession) the minimum requirement. Then employers could administer a program in compliance with the respiratory standard.
Social Distancing is the better control. In our industry (Heavy Civil Construction) we have been “essential” since the onset of the pandemic. We have the ability to social distance and this control is working, along with washing hands and wearing a face covering when social distancing greater than 6-feet is not feasible. Our companies work in many states and large urban city environments. Our positivity rate is under (but closer) to 1% than 5+% positive by head count. Of those team members that have tested positive a larger percentage of the group are office support personnel versus field personnel that would be required to wear a face covering even though they are able to practice social distancing. Every person does not need to wear a face covering in situations where social distancing can be established and maintained.
Written Plan - Having a requirement for a written plan is acceptable. It would be best for VOSH to provide a standard template as an appendix, to the standard to help promote consistency, and adaptation of all employers / businesses.
If the intention of VOSH is to make compliance a citable offense, then VOSH needs to better define the who, what, where and when requirements better. In its present structure, the onus of the plan places the full responsibility on the employer to define controls that the CDC and VOSH have not defined. Then VOSH will inspect and cite if the employer if they do not follow their plan. It is the duty of VOSH, the State’s Lead Health and Safety Organization to define the requirements in detail so that employers can actually meet the requirements and have a positive impact on the prevention of the spread. Without the necessary detail, low end plans will be implemented and have little impact but in theory be compliant. While higher end plans (stretch plans) will penalize employers that are really trying to do more than a minimum plan. Thereby creating an undo liability to employers.
Training is acceptable and necessary. Would like to see absolute clarity on the training expectations of VOSH. VOSH is very grey in this area, thereby leaving the matter up to employer to determine the minimum standard and then debate this with a compliance officer at a later date.
Consultation versus Citation - VOSH should also offer consultation and support services (including example documents) and spend more time on coaching and support of employers with this matter. VOSH needs to support businesses with planning, communication and training on social distancing, clean and sanitize practices, face covering use, and other best practices that can be used to reduce the spread.
If there needs to be citations, then what is the intentions of VOSH with regards to them? They are not clearly defined in the purposed standard. OSHA typically publishes “instruction” for inspection procedures and enforcement. I’m very concerned that VOSH Compliance Officers will be allowed interpretation of the standard based on their opinion of the contractor’s efforts and their opinion of compliance.
Multi-Employer citations. We would not at all in agreement that any element of a Multi-Employer Doctrine being applied to this standard. General Contractors have very little direct control for subs, service providers, and vendors, beyond face coverings. With the vague and ambiguous nature of the purposed standard there is significant risk to employers.