June 11, 2021
On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced a new emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) to protect healthcare workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19. The COVID-19 ETS applies to all settings where employees provide healthcare or healthcare support service, including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home healthcare facilities, and some ambulatory care facilities (with some exemptions for settings where all employees are fully vaccinated and all non-employees are screened prior to entry). The ETS requires healthcare employers to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 by implementing the following workplace requirements and standards:
- conducting a hazard assessment and written COVID-19 plan;
- providing patient screening and management;
- implementing Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions based on CDC guidelines;
- providing personal protective equipment (PPE) including facemasks or respirators;
- implementing controls for aerosol-generating procedures;
- installing physical barriers in areas where distancing of at least six feet is not possible;
- implementing standards for cleaning, disinfection, and ventilation;
- conducting health screenings and medical management procedures;
- providing training and anti-retaliation protection to employees; and
- recordkeeping of employee COVID-19 infections and reporting fatalities and hospitalizations.
The ETS also requires employers to provide employees with paid time off for vaccinations and for recovery if they have side effects from the vaccine. Employees who may be contagious should work remotely or in isolation if possible, or the employer must provide paid time off of up to $1,400 per week. For employers with fewer than 500 employees, the same requirements apply except the required weekly payment will be reduced to two-thirds ($1000 per week in some cases) after two weeks.
This rule becomes effective on the date of publication in the Federal Register, which is expected to be soon, and employers will have 14 days to comply.