By: Claire Williams
On Thursday, June 10, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a long anticipated emergency temporary standard (“ETS”). In an unexpected turn, the ETS is only mandatory for employers in the health care industry. OSHA also issued voluntary guidelines for employers outside of the health care industry.
Requirements for Health Care Industry Employers
Under OSHA’s ETS, most health care employers are required to perform the following measures:
- Develop and implement a written COVID-19 plan;
- Screen employees and non-employees that enter the workplace;
- Mandate that face masks be worn at all times, with limited exceptions;
- Practice social distancing of all people when indoors, with limited exceptions;
- Adhere to certain cleaning and disinfection requirements;
- Ensure proper ventilation of workplace (if applicable);
- Notify proper parties of exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19;
- Support COVID-19 vaccinations by providing reasonable time and paid live to employees for vaccination and any side effects following vaccination;
- Provide COVID-19 training to employees; and
- Report COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths to OSHA.
Guidelines for Non-Health Care Industry Employers
For employers not covered by the ETS, including employers outside the health care industry, OSHA issued non-binding guidance designed to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The guidance focuses on protecting unvaccinated and otherwise “at-risk” workers. As an incentive for employers to encourage employee vaccinations, the guidance provides that, except for workplace settings covered by the ETS, employers with a fully vaccinated workforce no longer need to take steps to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. If all employees are not fully vaccinated, however, then OSHA recommends that employers provide paid time off for employees to get vaccinated; instruct workers who are infected with, or have been exposed to COVID-19 to stay home from work; implement social distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in communal areas; provide unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings; provide COVID-19 training to employees; maintain proper ventilation systems; perform routine cleaning and disinfection; and continue to follow all other mandatory OSHA standards.
OSHA further recommends that employers at higher-risk workplaces (such as manufacturing facilities; meat, seafood and poultry processing facilities; and high-volume retail and grocery establishments), with mixed-vaccination status workers, implement additional precautions to those mentioned above in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection. These additional precautions include staggered break schedules; staggered arrival and departure times; visual cues as a reminder to maintain social distancing; proper ventilation; and proper spacing of workers on food processing or assembly lines.
We are committed to our clients and will continue to monitor legislation and regulations for their potential impact. In the meantime, if you are unsure if the mandatory ETS applies to you or have questions about implementation of OSHA’s requirements or guidelines, we encourage you to consult with your Labor & Employment counsel. If you need Labor & Employment counsel, please contact any member of Brunini’s Labor & Employment Practice Group.