COVID-19: Recommended Controls to Reduce Worker Exposures to COVID-19 in English and en Español

COVID-19: Recommended Controls to Reduce Worker Exposures to COVID-19 in English and en Español

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The USW’s Health, Safety & Environment Department continues to identify and support COVID-19 health and safety controls to assist in slowing and stopping the likelihood of our members (and other workers) contracting this virus. Some of these control measures are in place at USW-represented workplaces, and in some locations, they are working on implementing these protections.

Congratulations to USW local unions involved in the implementation of the protective measures. The USW is sharing what we have learned – illustrating how the “hierarchy of controls” put into practice protects our members and others in our workplaces.

Although particular controls may not work for all workplaces, we will continue to monitor and share controls and practices as a way of exchanging experiences, ideas and insights for safer workplaces as well as for building collective approaches and a stronger union.

Action Plans

  1. Development of an Infectious Disease Preparedness, Response and Control Plan with worker and union involvement, including a section for a potential spike in infection rates and action plans.
  2. Should a workplace (or department) have to temporally close and reopen due to COVID-19. Prior to start-up, a management representative from the location should acknowledge that the employer’s start-up action plans be taken or planned, and have been completed accordingly. This acknowledgment should be documented in a Start-up Check Sheet and Acknowledgement sheet. Where any satisfactory acknowledgment (Yes response) on the form is not feasible, alternative actions should be determined, approved by the employer’s highest-ranking safety official, and implemented; if those are not feasible (No responses), re-starting should be prohibited. Employers, workers and their representatives must assess jobs/tasks for physical distancing and respond appropriately. As a last resort, if satisfactory distancing or worker protection (using the hierarchy of controls) cannot be achieved, the jobs/tasks shall not be restarted.

Engineering Controls

  1. Discontinue use of touch biometrics – use other means to clock in/out (see below).
  2. Issue workers their own stylus pen for personal use.
  3. Provide alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol and store them at stations for use on stylus pens and touch screens.
  4. Provide No-Touch Bathrooms, installing motion-activated:
    - Doors (where applicable)
    - Faucets
    - Paper towel dispensers
    - Foot pedal operated sinks
    - Trash cans
  5. Discontinue use of turnstiles when entering and exiting the workplace – use large gates with ramped-up security measures.
  6. Increase outside air to ventilation systems wherever possible. Verify that outside air dampers are working on air handlers and are at least at minimums. If demand control outside air systems exist, change their set points to allow for more outside air. If economizer mode systems are installed verify that they are functioning.
    - If filters are changed make sure that this is done after hours with systems off and with personnel wearing proper PPE. Treat filters as infectious waste and make sure they are immediately bagged. Disinfect air handlers periodically along with air conditioning condensate drain pans.
    - Reference documents include: It is best for the ventilation system to run in 100% exhaust mode. pd_infectiousaerosols_2020.pdf REHVA_COVID-19_guidance_document_ver2_20200403_1.pdf
  7. Use a headset with noise reduction and microphones to improve communications and do on-the-job training (ideally, each person will have their own headset). Equipment must be kept clean and disinfected.
  8. Install and use pneumatic tubes (or capsule pipelines; also known as pneumatic tube transport) to share paperwork. These systems move cylindrical containers through networks of tubes by compressed air or by partial vacuum and prevent close contact.
  9. Using mobile devices to text supervision who will clock workers in and out of their shifts. This has eliminated the need for workers to use time clocks or computers, and the crowds around them.
  10. Where applicable and in accordance with employer policies, using smart phones to report safety and health concerns to cut down on shared computers and maintain physical distancing.
  11. Extra parking areas provided with additional entrances and exits. This allows workers to use their own cars to get close to the workplace, rather than having to ride transport that could require them to be in close contact with others.
  12. Job-site trailers (similar to construction-site office trailers) are brought in to provide additional spaces for offices, break areas, locker rooms, training and more – reducing crowded areas and allowing for at least 6- foot distancing.

Administrative Controls

  1. Development of an infectious disease prevention and response plan with worker and union involvement, including a section for a potential spike in infection rates and action plans.
  2. Negotiated paid leave, voluntary layoff, etc. for COVID-19 related absences so workers do not have to choose between a paycheck and risking spread of the virus to others.
  3. Negotiated COVID-19 absentee policies to keep workers home who are sick, have developed symptoms or were in close contact with a confirmed or suspected case; or they are high-risk. All should be eligible for sickness and accident benefits, sick days; FMLA and any other appropriate negotiated and paid leaves (in addition to any federal or state legislation that applies). 
  4. Utilizing contract safety language, procedures and employer policies to speak up with collective support and take action against unsafe work without the fear of discrimination or harassment, including stop job/task authority.
  5. COVID-19 related grievances are expedited for prompt resolution.
  6. Employers notifying union representatives and workers of suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, while maintaining protections under privacy laws. Workers who have had close contact with those who have tested positive or showing symptoms of COVID-19 should quarantine, with pay and benefits.
  7. Local unions and employers working together to identify potential upset conditions of critical operations and systems. This includes, but not limited to: staffing levels, boilers and critical gas fired operations, supply chains/parts, periodic, preventative and periodic maintenance, supplies, PPE, etc. that could/should cause operations to cease.
  8. Employers are providing union reps with paid employer time to meet (physically distanced) with members to increase communications and problem solve. Some local union officers are dealing solely with membership concerns and issues involving COVID-19 on a full-time basis. These reps are raising issues and working to solve concerns with employers on conference calls.
  9. Union – Management leadership meetings via phone and/or WebEx (daily, every-other-day, three times per week, etc.)
  10. Holding workplace meetings via conference calls or doing them virtually using on-line platforms.
  11. Conduct worker and union rep-involved risk assessments of jobs/tasks to identify where and when workers come in less than 6-feet of each other, and redesign jobs and tasks to prevent this close contact. Where workplace changes are made, it must not create other hazards. For example, ergonomic stressors, having people working alone, unless there is at least one other person in seeing or hearing distance above the ambient noise.
  12. Installing markings with cones, painted lines or tape on the floor and signage to ensure at least 6-foot distance between people.
  13. Negotiated staggering shift times and/or modified shifts to reduce personnel in the same space, at the same time.
  14. Negotiated staggering breaks and meal times, to reduce personnel in the same space at the same time.
  15. Adjusting break/conference room tables and chairs to maintain at least 6-foot physical distancing.
  16. Delivery drivers stay in their trucks and do not enter the workplace using alternative communication procedures. The workplace also provides portable and maintained restrooms for these workers.
  17. Training conducted by a variety of means including in-person (but keeping at least 6-foot distance), videos, written materials and computers. Training must continue to be in the language(s) and literacy level(s) of the workforce. Note: computer-based training is a limited tool and used only to supplement, not replace other trainings mentioned above.
  18. Slower speeds and production standards that allow for jobs to be done with at least 6-foot physical distancing and that allow for additional time for frequent hand washing.
  19. Purchasing or renting more powered industrial trucks and vehicles to support one-person-to-a-vehicle policies. Extra time for cleaning if different people on different shifts will use vehicles, etc.
  20. Adding additional, or portable, hand washing stations with soap and paper towels (motion or foot pedal activated). Workers must have the right to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer frequently.
  21. Buying hand sanitizer in bulk quantities (5 to 55-gallon drums) and dispensing it into smaller containers for workstations.
  22. Putting in-house cleaning and disinfecting crew(s) in place. Ample supplies of EPA listed disinfectants that can kill coronavirus, along with proper training and PPE. Cleaning schedule based on the size of the workplace and shifts in operation.
  23. Developing checklists of areas that need cleaning and disinfecting, including mobile equipment, handrails, tools, machinery and controls, and a timetable for frequent cleaning; and ensuring that there is appropriate staffing to carry out tasks.
  24. Purchasing cleaning chemicals that are effective in killing this virus but less hazardous and will not cause asthma, skin rashes, and other hazardous conditions.

Personal Protective Equipment, “Face Covering” or “Mask”

Workers need respirators to be protected from aerosol transmission. According to CDC, an uninfected person with no face covering or mask, can be infected if within 6-feet of an infected person for 15-minutes. The time increases to 27 minutes if both are wearing a face covering or mask, and to 2,500 hours if both are wearing a fit-tested N95 respirator.

Be careful in selecting the proper types of gloves and in putting them on and removing them.
Reference: v=xTYioOo__6U

The CDC continues to update their information about “masks”, how to select, properly wear, clean, and store masks coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html

We recognize these controls may not work for all workplaces, we will continue to share controls and practices as a way of exchanging experiences, ideas, insights for safer workplaces as well as building a stronger union. If you have ideas and controls you’d like to share with the USW, please contact us at

Controles recomendados para reducir Exposición de los trabajadores a COVID-19

El Departamento de Salud, Seguridad y Medio Ambiente de los USW (United Steelworkers) continúa identificando y apoyando los controles de salud y seguridad COVID-19 para ayudar a frenar y detener la probabilidad de que los trabajadores contraigan este virus. Algunas de estas medidas de control están en vigor en los lugares de trabajo representados por los Steelworkers (USW), y en algunos lugares, están trabajando en la implementación de estas protecciones.

Felicitaciones a los sindicatos locales de los USW involucrados en la implementación de las medidas de protección. Los USW estamos compartiendo lo que hemos aprendido, ilustrando cómo la "jerarquía de controles" puesta en práctica protege a nuestros miembros y a otros en nuestros lugares de trabajo.

Aunque es posible que los controles particulares no funcionen para todos los lugares de trabajo, seguiremos supervisando y compartiendo los controles y las prácticas como una forma de intercambiar experiencias, ideas y perspectivas para poder tener lugares de trabajo más seguros, así como para construir enfoques colectivos y un sindicato más fuerte.

Plan de Acción

Controles de Ingeniería

Controles Administrativos

Equipo de Protección Personal


Muchos lugares de trabajo han donado su suministro de respiradores tipo N95 y otros respiradores a los trabajadores de la salud debido a la escasez. Seguimos animando a todos a hacerlo. Los trabajadores no sanitarios que necesiten utilizar protección respiratoria para otros peligros deben seguir haciéndolo.


Tenga en cuenta los procedimientos para ponerse y desechar los respiradores junto con las pruebas de ajuste.


Tenga cuidado al seleccionar los tipos adecuados de guantes y el modo para ponerlos, retirarlos y desecharlos.

Información Adicional

Las cubiertas faciales de tela "caseras" son sólo una parte de un plan integral de prevención y respuesta de enfermedades infecciosas para los que tienen que estar en el trabajo. No hay manera de determinar la eficacia de estas cubiertas que no quedan ajustadas.

Estas cubiertas no tienen ningún estándar de "aprobación", pruebas, certificación o requisitos de etiquetado como PPE. Además, las cubiertas faciales de tela no hacen mucho para proteger al usuario. El virus a veces es transportado por partículas diminutas que pasan fácilmente a través de la tela. Sin embargo, una cubierta de la cara de tela ayuda a proteger a otras personas si el usuario tiene el virus y no lo sabe. Una cubierta facial de tela puede atrapar gotas grandes por toser y/o estornudar. También baja la velocidad de las partículas diminutas, por lo que no se proyectan tan lejos- son esencialmente un control de origen.

Asegúrese de que las cubiertas para la cara se pueden lavar y secar a máquina sin dañar o cambiar su forma. Ha habido una gran cantidad de información falsa sobre la limpieza de las cubiertas de tela para la cara; incluyendo poner en el microondas y sellado en una bolsa “Ziplock”. Esto podría causar daños en la cubierta y podría ni siquiera funcionar. Usar una lavadora o lavarlas a mano con jabón y agua caliente funciona bien. 

Las cubiertas faciales de tela pueden dar una falsa sensación de seguridad. No reemplazan ninguno de los otros controles. El distanciamiento social, el saneamiento frecuente de la superficie, el lavado de manos y otras medidas siguen siendo de vital importancia.