On June 10th, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its highly anticipated COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which applies only to the health care industry. The agency also provided detailed recommendations for other employers on protecting unvaccinated and at-risk workers as the coronavirus crisis continues. In a statement from Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh “Too many of our frontline healthcare workers continue to be at high risk of contracting the coronavirus. This standard follows the science and will provide increased protections for those whose health is at heightened risk from coronavirus while they provide us with critical healthcare services.”
The ETS applies to all settings where any employee provides healthcare services or healthcare support services, with some exemptions for healthcare providers who screen patients who may have COVID-19. It is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Employers must comply with most provisions within 14 days, while they have 30 days to comply with provisions involving physical barriers, ventilation and training.
Key requirements of the ETS include:
- Developing and implementing a COVID-19 plan, including designating a safety coordinator with authority to ensure compliance.
- Patient screening and management to limit and monitor points of entry to settings where direct patient care is provided.
- Developing and implementing policies and procedures to adhere to standard and transmission-based precautions based on CDC guidelines, including PPE, physical distancing, physical barriers, cleaning and disinfection, and ventilation.
- Health screening and medical management of employees.
- Providing paid leave for COVID-19 vaccinations and recovery from side effects.
- Training employees on COVID-19 transmission, situations that can result in infections, and relevant policies and procedures.
In addition to the ETS, OSHA has issued updated guidance to help employers and workers in other industries protect unvaccinated workers, with an emphasis on industries noted for prolonged close contacts like meat processing, manufacturing, seafood, and grocery and high-volume retail.
OSHA will continue providing employers with compliance assistance and conduct inspections under their national emphasis program for COVID-19 prevention. The more significant story for non-health care employers is the new guidance that OSHA published, particularly as it relates to vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in the workplace. For more information, visit OSHA online.
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