In one of his first executive orders upon taking office in January, President Joe Biden ordered the Labor Department to consider issuing an emergency temporary standard, or ETS, for businesses to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today (6/10/2021), the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a highly anticipated ETS that sets workplace safety parameters which employers in the health care sector must meet to protect health care workers from COVID-19 for the duration of the pandemic. (See https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets.) The rule takes effect on the date it is published in the Federal Register, although the exact date hasn’t yet been determined.
The ETS will require employers in the health care sector to maintain social distancing protocols, make sure that patients are properly screened for virus symptoms, and give workers paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from vaccine side effects as encouragement to get the shot. The ETS includes a carve-out for certain workplaces where all workers are fully vaccinated and people who may have COVID-19 are barred.
OSHA also issued a series of voluntary guidelines for employers that operate outside of the health care context to protect unvaccinated workers, particularly industries like meatpacking and high-volume retail where close contact between people is common.