The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for the health care industry on June 10, 2021. The ETS will apply to healthcare and healthcare support service workers with the goal of better protecting them from occupational exposure to COVID-19. This will include, among others, employees working in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and ambulatory care facilities. It will also include employees working as emergency responders (with private employers) and home healthcare workers.
What Is Required?
The ETS will require a health care industry employer with covered employees to conduct a hazard assessment and to prepare a written action plan for COVID-19 mitigation. The employers must also provide and ensure the use of requisite PPE (e.g., masks) and require proper social distancing (i.e., six feet) between workers (and erecting barriers if that is not possible). The ETS also requires covered employers to provide employees with paid time off in order to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects. The ETS does, however, exempt fully vaccinated workers from the PPE and social distancing requirements in circumstances where there is no reasonable expectation that they will come in contact with anyone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
When Must You Comply?
The ETS will take effect immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register. Employers will then have only 14 days within which to come into compliance with the majority of the requirements. OSHA has stated, however, that for the time being it will take into consideration an employer’s good faith efforts to comply with the ETS when determining whether to issue a citation for any violation.
How Long Will It Be In Effect?
The ETS would likely stay in effect until or unless it is superseded by a permanent standard (which can take approximately six months). Until that time, OSHA has stated that it will update the ETS, when necessary, to align with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and to respond to changes in the COVID-19 pandemic.