A coronavirus is named for the crown-like spikes on its surface that are apparent when the virus is viewed under extreme magnification. Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. There are four main sub-groupings of human coronaviruses: alpha, beta, gamma and delta. The gamma and delta coronaviruses do not cause known human disease.
Emergency Temporary Standard on Occupational Exposure to COVID-19
North Carolina adopted verbatim the federal OSHA's Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare with an effective date of July 21, 2021. North Carolina's standard was repealed in its entirety by NCDOL effective March 4, 2022. In the absence of a healthcare standard, NCDOL will enforce general standards to include; the general duty clause, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection. Since work-related COVID-19 cases are recordable illnesses, OSHA's recordkeeping standards (Part 1904) would also apply.
Workers Who May Have Exposure Risk
Despite the low risk of exposure in most job sectors, some workers in the United States may have exposure to infectious people, including travelers who contracted COVID-19 abroad. Workers with increased exposure risk include those involved in:
- Healthcare (including pre-hospital and medical transport workers, healthcare providers, long-term care workers, pharmacies, and support staff)
- Emergency response and public safety
- Postmortem care (including coroners, medical examiners and funeral directors)
- Laboratories (clinical and research laboratory personnel)
- Airline operations
- Meat and poultry processing
- Border protection and transportation security
- Correctional facilities
- Retail operations
What can I do to protect myself and others when transmission is on the rise?
Engineering, Administrative and Work Practice Controls.
- Follow established work procedures for infection control.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid close contact with people that are sick.
- Maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other people.
- Wear a cloth face covering, especially when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Cover your mouth when you cough with a tissue or elbow, Throw tissue in trash, do not reuse.
- Clean and disinfect work areas frequently.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Employees who believe they are infected with 2019 nCoV are encouraged to self-quarantine at home to prevent infecting others.
Personal Protective Equipment. Employees in certain higher risk occupational settings are especially encouraged to use respirators that afford the level of protection of an N95 filtering facepiece respirator or better. Where respirator use is required, the employer must implement an effective respiratory protection program including, but not limited to, medical evaluation and fit testing. In addition, use and properly maintain all provided personal protective equipment for work-related tasks having exposure(s).
What resources are available to assist employers?
Training and Outreach Services
Presentations on a variety of topics associated with exposure to 2019 nCoV are available to assist employers in training their staff. These include bloodborne pathogens, hazard communication, respiratory protection and personal protective equipment. Each of these presentations should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards.
In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.
Safety and Health Programs
Example safety and health programs are available for employers to download and adapt to their specific conditions. Safety and health programs relative to 2019 nCoV include bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan, hazard communication program, personal protective hazard assessment and respiratory protection program.
A- Z Safety and Health Topics
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
Which standards apply?
The OSH Division has adopted the following standards which are, or may be, applicable to occupational exposure to COVID-19 in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
- 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I: personal protective equipment
- 29 CFR 1910 Subpart J: general environmental controls
- 29 CFR 1910 Subpart Z: toxic and hazardous substances
- 29 CFR Subpart C: general safety and health provisions
- 29 CFR Subpart D: occupational health and environmental controls
- 29 CFR Subpart E: personal protective and life saving equipment
In addition, OSH has added the following state-specific rule to apply the bloodborne pathogens standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, to construction:
- 13 NCAC 07F.0207 - construction, toxic and hazardous substances
- 29 CFR Part 1904: recordkeeping
- 29 CFR 1904.39: reporting fatalities, hospitalizations, amputations, and losses of an eye as a result of work-related incidents to OSHA
General Duty Clause
- NCGS 95-129(1): General Duty Clause, Occupational Safety and Health Act of North Carolina
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to this topic.
Where can I learn more?
OSH Compliance Documents
- Memo: Updated Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease
- Memo: Repeal of Healthcare ETS (COVID-19)
OSH Industry Guides
- Industry Guide 48—OSHA Construction Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to COVID-19.
- Industry Guide 49—OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to COVID-19.
- Industry Guide 50—OSHA Agriculture Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to COVID-19.
- Industry Guide 53—OSHA Shipyard Employment Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to COVID-19.
- Industry Guide 54—OSHA Marine Terminal Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to COVID-19.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by email to email@example.com or by calling 919-707-7876.