Under WHS laws, employers must do everything that is reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk of a worker contracting COVID-19 at the workplace, or where this is not reasonably practicable, they must minimize the risk of a worker contracting COVID-19 at the workplace. This means employers must provide a work environment that is without risk to health and safety, including access to facilities for good hygiene such as adequate supply of soap, water and toilet paper; and make sure these are kept clean, properly stocked and in good working order.
If those supplies are not available, for the purposes of the OSH laws, it would not be reasonably practicable for an employer to provide them. For example:
- If there are no supplies of masks in the US, an employer cannot be required, to provide a mask. In those circumstances, an employer should consider what alternative measures or approaches can be taken to eliminate or minimize risk.
- If there are no supplies of hand sanitizer, a business owner or manager should consider providing access to soap rather than hand sanitizer.
Ultimately however, if an employer is unable to obtain necessary supplies to provide a work environment that is without risks, they should consider whether the risks posed to workers and others at the workplace are so great that workers should not be required to attend the workplace and perform work. This will need to be determined on a case by case basis.