New from OSHA on COVID-19: A COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare and Revised Guidance for All Other Employers

Brooks Pierce
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Brooks Pierce

Today, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for the healthcare industry. This ETS mandates the development and implementation of a COVID-19 plan in workplaces where employees provide healthcare services or healthcare support services. It also sets out detailed requirements in areas such as patient screening and management, personal protective equipment (PPE), physical distancing, physical barriers, cleaning and disinfection, ventilation, health screening, vaccinations, training, and recordkeeping. 

Simultaneously, OSHA issued revised guidance that applies to all employers. The revised guidance expressly states that it “focuses only on protecting unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces” and acknowledges that “most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure.” 

With regard to unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers, OSHA encourages employers to engage with workers to determine appropriate ways to protect them and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. OSHA identifies several interventions that should be included:

  • Granting paid time off for employees to get vaccinated;
  • Instructing workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and all other workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work;
  • Implementing physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in all communal work areas;
  • Providing unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings (or other PPE required by their position);
  • Educating and training workers on COVID-19 policies and procedures;
  • Suggesting that unvaccinated customers, visitors and guests wear face coverings;
  • Maintaining ventilation systems;
  • Performing routine cleaning and disinfection;
  • Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths;
  • Implementing protections from retaliation and an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19 hazards; and
  • Following other applicable mandatory OSHA standards.

The guidance goes on to identify measures that may be needed in higher risk workplaces where close contact cannot be avoided, such as manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, high-volume retail, and seafood processing.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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