Low and medium exposure risk for COVID-19: OSHA-recommended protections


A previous article looked at OSHA’s classification of exposure-risk levels for employees. The discussion taken from their guidelines continues below with their recommendations for protecting employees who have a low or medium exposure risk.

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Jobs Classified at Lower Exposure Risk (Caution): What to Do to Protect Workers

Engineering Controls

Additional engineering controls are not recommended for workers in the lower exposure risk group. Employers should ensure that engineering controls, if any, used to protect workers from other job hazards continue to function as intended.

Administrative Controls

  • Monitor public health communications about COVID-19 recommendations and ensure that workers have access to that information. Frequently check the CDC COVID-19 website.

  • Collaborate with workers to designate effective means of communicating important COVID-19 information.

Personal Protective Equipment

Additional PPE is not recommended for workers in the lower exposure risk group. Workers should continue to use the PPE, if any, that they would ordinarily use for other job tasks.

Jobs Classified at Medium Exposure Risk: What to Do to Protect Workers

Engineering Controls

  • Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, where feasible.

Administrative Controls

  • Consider offering face masks to ill employees and customers to contain respiratory secretions until they are able leave the workplace (i.e., for medical evaluation/care or to return home). In the event of a shortage of masks, a reusable face shield that can be decontaminated may be an acceptable method of protecting against droplet transmission. See CDC/ NIOSH guidance for optimizing respirator supplies, which discusses the use of surgical masks.

  • Keep customers informed about symptoms of COVID-19 and ask sick customers to minimize contact with workers until healthy again, such as by posting signs about COVID-19 in stores where sick customers may visit (e.g., pharmacies) or including COVID-19 information in automated messages sent when prescriptions are ready for pick up.

  • Where appropriate, limit customers’ and the public’s access to the worksite, or restrict access to only certain workplace areas.

  • Consider strategies to minimize face-to-face contact (e.g., drivethrough windows, phone-based communication, telework).

  • Communicate the availability of medical screening or other worker health resources (e.g., on-site nurse; telemedicine services).

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

When selecting PPE, consider factors such as function, fit, decontamination ability, disposal, and cost. Sometimes, when PPE will have to be used repeatedly for a long period of time, a more expensive and durable type of PPE may be less expensive overall than disposable PPE. Each employer should select the combination of PPE that protects workers specific to their workplace.

Workers with medium exposure risk may need to wear some combination of gloves, a gown, a face mask, and/or a face shield or goggles. PPE ensembles for workers in the medium exposure risk category will vary by work task, the results of the employer’s hazard assessment, and the types of exposures workers have on the job.

In rare situations that would require workers in this risk category to use respirators, see the PPE section beginning on page 14 of this booklet, which provides more details about respirators. For the most up-to-date information, visit OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage.


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