OSHA Re-Opening FAQs

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a frequently asked questions and answer page on their website to help prevent COVID-19 exposure on the job.

As you continue to increase your time spent on the job this summer, be sure to check the FAQ page often whenever you feel like you might be at risk. Don’t have time to read through every question? Here’s some important information to remember: 

What are the key differences between cloth face coverings and surgical masks?

Cloth face coverings may be commercially produced or improvised (i.e., homemade) garments, scarves, bandanas, or items made from t-shirts or other fabrics. They are NOT considered personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Surgical masks are typically cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as medical devices (though not all devices that look like surgical masks are actually medical-grade, cleared devices). They are used to protect workers against splashes and sprays (i.e., droplets) containing potentially infectious materials. In this capacity, surgical masks are considered PPE.

Should workers wear a cloth face covering while at work, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation for all people to do so when in public?

OSHA generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work. Face coverings are intended to prevent wearers who have Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) without knowing it (i.e., those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic) from spreading potentially infectious respiratory droplets to others. This is known as source control.

If workers wear cloth face coverings, do employers still need to ensure social distancing measures in the workplace?

Yes. Cloth face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing measures.

Are surgical masks or cloth face coverings acceptable respiratory protection in the construction industry, when respirators would be needed but are not available because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

No. Employers must not use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed.

Does OSHA have any COVID-19 guidance for the construction industry?

Yes. OSHA released guidance specific to the construction industry.

When can employees who have had COVID-19, or may have had COVID-19, return to work?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides guidance about the discontinuation of home isolation for people with COVID-19. Persons with COVID-19 who have symptoms and were directed to care for themselves at home may discontinue isolation under the following conditions:

  • At least 10 days have passed since symptom onset and
  • At least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
  • Other symptoms have improved.

As you continue navigating safely returning to work or increasing your workload, remember to visit OSHA’s COVID-19 resource page for official up-to-date regulation information.