OSHA Issues Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard and Updated Guidance on COVID-19

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June 11, 2021

Client Alert
On June 10, 2021, OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) applicable to the healthcare industry regarding COVID-19. The ETS applies to settings where any employee provides healthcare or healthcare support services, with certain specified exceptions. Exceptions to the ETS include vaccinated employees in home healthcare settings and non-hospital ambulatory care settings (such as doctor’s offices), in both instances where non-employees are screened and those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections are not permitted entrance or are otherwise not present. The ETS requires that employers, inter alia, conduct hazard assessments, implement social distancing, and ensure that employees wear facemasks, respirators, and other required personal protective equipment.

OSHA also issued updated guidance applicable to employers and workers not covered by the ETS. OSHA’s updated guidance states that “[u]nless 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.” The new guidance, therefore, applies only to protecting unvaccinated and at-risk workers. OSHA considers at-risk workers to be those who are unable to be fully protected from vaccinations, such as those taking immune-weakening medications, regardless of their vaccination status.
OSHA’s guidance provides that employers should take steps to protect unvaccinated and at-risk workers in their workplaces by:
In addition to the above, OSHA recommends the following measures for “higher-risk workplaces” with unvaccinated or at-risk workers (such as manufacturing, meat, poultry and seafood processing, and high-volume retail/grocery stores):
OSHA’s guidance is in addition to previously issued guidance and does not provide any insight into how an employer is to determine and monitor an employees’ vaccination or at-risk status. The guidance is not a standard or regulation and creates no new legal obligations. A full copy of the guidance can be found at: https://www.osha.gov

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