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OSHA releases Covid-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for healthcare workers, updates general industry guidance

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration on June 10 published a Covid-19 Emergency Temporary Standard [1] for specific healthcare settings. OSHA also provided updated guidance [2] for employers in all other industries to reflect the change in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance [3] regarding fully vaccinated people.

“This standard is necessary to give our healthcare workers deeply needed protections,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “This tailored standard allows OSHA to help the workers most in danger of contracting the virus, while the updated guidance will give other businesses across the country the information they need to help protect unvaccinated workers and continue mitigating spread in the workplace.”

Key requirements of the healthcare ETS include:

Employers should consult the standard [1] for the full scope of the requirements for healthcare settings.

“Overall, many healthcare employers already have in place policies and procedures that meet or exceed CDC guidelines and thus meet or exceed most of OSHA’s new ETS,” write Dean Kelley and John Martin of law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. in a JD Supra blog post. “Healthcare employers should focus compliance efforts on new or revised requirements, including training requirements, the new mini respiratory protection program, new recordkeeping obligations, the changes to healthcare employer’s reporting obligations to OSHA and, last but not least, OSHA’s paid leave requirement.”

<LINK TO JD Supra blog post>


Masks Still Mandatory?

Under most circumstances, fully vaccinated people need not take all the precautions that unvaccinated people should take, explains CDC’s Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People [3]. The general industry guidance is advisory only and not mandatory.

The ETS exempts fully vaccinated workers from face coverings, physical distancing and barrier requirements when in well-defined areas where there is no reasonable expectation that any person will be present with suspected or confirmed Covid-19, according to The National Law Review [4].

“Except for workplace settings covered by OSHA’s ETS and mask requirements for public transportation, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from Covid-19 exposure in any workplace, or well-defined portions of a workplace, where all employees are fully vaccinated,” according to OSHA. “Employers should still take steps to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces, or well-defined portions of workplaces.”

Multi-Layered Interventions

According to OSHA, employers should engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered interventions to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of Covid-19, including:

The OSHA guidance also provides additional measures for high-risk workplaces with workers of  mixed vaccination status. High-risk workplaces — which can include manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, high-volume retail and grocery and seafood processing — might exist where there is frequent or prolonged close contact between unvaccinated or at-risk workers, especially in shared spaces such as break rooms, locker rooms and entrance/exit areas.

In higher-risk workplaces. In all higher-risk workplaces where there are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers, employers should:

In workplaces with processing or assembly lines:

In retail workplaces where there are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers:

The guidance also notes that unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers are also at risk when traveling to and from work in employer-provided buses and vans. Employers should notify unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers of this risk and, to the extent feasible, help them limit the number of such workers in one vehicle. They should also make sure all unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers sharing a vehicle are wearing appropriate face coverings.