OSHA Issues Emergency Standard for Healthcare, Updates General Industry Guidance
On June 10, OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) establishing requirements employers must follow to limit workers potential COVID-19 exposure for those employees providing health care services and health care support services. The ETS and fact sheets are available here.
While we are still reviewing the ETS, OSHA’s accompanying fact sheet indicates the ETS coverage extends to all settings “where any employee provides healthcare services or healthcare support service,” including “employees in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities; emergency responders; home healthcare workers; and employees in ambulatory care facilities where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated.” Employers must comply with most provisions within 14 days of the regulation being published in the federal register, and with provisions involving physical barriers, ventilation and training within 30 days of publication in the register.
The ETS requires covered employers to:
- Develop and implement a COVID-19 plan;
- Screen and triage patients, clients and other visitors;
- Develop and implement policies and procedures that follow CDC guidelines;
- Provide facemasks indoors and respirators for employees possibly exposed to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19;
- Limit exposure to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19;
- Maintain physical distancing at 6 feet and install physical barriers where there is not 6-foot separation;
- Clean and disinfect;
- Use MERV 13 or higher filters in ventilation systems, where systems will accommodate such filters;
- Conduct daily screening of employees and impose systems for notifying employees about possible exposures;
- Provide paid leave for vaccination and vaccination side effects;
- Provide employee training on transmission, tasks and situations that could result in infection;
- Inform employees of their rights under the ETS and that they are protected against retaliation; and
- Keep records and file reports.
The ETS exempts fully vaccinated workers from masking, distancing, and barrier requirements when in well- defined areas where there is no reasonable expectation that any person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 will be present.
OSHA also issued updated guidance for general industry. The agency notes in the guidance’s Executive Summary that “unless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure. This guidance focuses only on protecting unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces (or well-defined portions of workplaces).”
We will continue to review the guidance and provide additional information in the coming weeks.