22 May 2020

Safety, Health and Waste Issues with Reopening Businesses

On April 28, 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released joint guidance on reopening during/after the COVID-19 pandemic. The document covers cleaning practices and disinfection practices, citing the list of EPA-approved disinfectants for use against COVID-19. Of course, as businesses reopen, there are concerns about Occupational Safety and Health Standards as well as waste requirements for spent personal protective equipment (PPE).

On May 6, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance for preparing for COVID-19. Most businesses whose operations are not medical in nature would fall into OSHA’s low- or medium-exposure risk categories, while specific PPE to prevent transmission is recommended only for businesses in the medium category. The OSHA guidance recognizes that some soiled PPE may be infectious. Some states, such as Colorado and Texas, have started issuing guidance that spent PPE used in general businesses (i.e., not medical- or healthcare-related) should be treated as general solid waste, with a recommendation to use more care and establish best management practices (e.g., double-bagging and washing hands after handling) in line with the CDC guidelines. The Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials has compiled state waste responses here.