The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), on June 10, 2021, released a long-anticipated Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) to protect workers that provide healthcare and healthcare support services from occupational exposure to COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the ETS applies to nursing homes and assisted living facilities where the effects of COVID-19 have been so devastating for both residents and staff. While many of the requirements contained in the ETS are likely already being implemented in these facilities, the mitigation strategies in place, especially with respect to physical barriers, may not satisfy the requirements of the ETS. As a result, providers must pay close attention to the ETS requirements and be prepared to act quickly as certain requirements must be implemented immediately upon publication of the ETS in the Federal Register on June 21, 2021, while other requirements must be implemented within either 14 or 30 days of publication.
The ETS is extensive and specifies requirements for the following:
As noted above, the ETS became effective on June 21, 2021. Most requirements must be implemented within 14 days thereafter, with 30 days provided for implementation of the requirements pertaining to physical barriers, ventilation, and training.
Despite the perception that the COVID-19 pandemic is in its waning phases, the ETS ensures that the physical workplace in long-term care facilities and, indeed, workplace practices, are likely to see permanent alterations even if the ETS is allowed to expire. Accordingly, employers should look to implementing the requirements of the ETS with a view toward their permanency.