New OSHA Requirements in Portable Sanitation

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, speculation and rumors have swirled that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be increasing its standards for portable sanitation cleaning, hand washing, and related health activities. To date the communications that have come out about this topic have been fairly clear if you are fluent in “government-ese” and somewhat less obvious if you are not. Below we share what is currently known and what the future might hold.

OSHA Has Not Issued New Standards about Portable Toilets or Hand Wash Stations Due to COVID-19

In our April 1 Association Insight we covered OSHA’s mandates for hand washing and toilets. Review the requirements in the existing standards on the PSAI website or check out our Industry Resource Library summary.

For decades, long-standing OSHA standards have required portable toilets and hand washing facilities on most job sites where sewered facilities are not available.

Since February, COVID-19 precautions and directives have been communicated by various levels of government, and portable sanitation operators are hearing about “new” OSHA standards. When someone says this, one or more of the following things is likely true:

• The person making the statement was unaware of the existing standards and thinks they are new.

• The person making the statement is referring to guidance specific to protecting workers from COVID-19 (see next section), is not clear there is a difference between a “standard” and agency “guidance,” and is mistakenly using the words interchangeably.

• The person is trying to make a case for or against a point of view and is offering uniformed or untrue statements to bolster his or her position.

OSHA Has Issued Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

Find the guidance here or in the PSAI’s COVID-19 Resource Center. When a government agency like OSHA issues guidance, its purpose is to inform the public and provide direction on how to interpret and apply existing standards under a given set of conditions. The guidance does not create new permanent requirements.

**To continue reading the rest of this article, click on the April 29 issue of Association Insight newsletter.

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