At long last, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has finally released a COVID-19 standard that it has stated was coming since January. Health-care employers will be required to abide by the new emergency temporary standard (ETS) published by OSHA. The emergency workplace-safety rule was published on OSHA’s website on June 10 and is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Voluntary guidance for other industries will follow.
Previously, OSHA did not have a rule that addressed steps employers are required to take to protect employees from the airborne spread of pathogens. This newly released, mandatory emergency rule aligns with existing voluntary OSHA guidance but now has teeth: the power of enforcement with citations and monetary penalties. Covered employers have 14 days to comply with most provisions of the ETS, although some provisions such as those involving physical barriers, ventilation, and training must be completed within 30 days of the standard’s publication.
The COVID-19 ETS applies to all settings where any employee provides health-care services or health-care support services. OSHA has provided a flow chart (https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA4125.pdf) to help employers determine if their workplace is covered under the COVID-19 ETS. Notably, the ETS exempts fully vaccinated workers from masking, distancing, and barrier requirements in a workplace setting where there is no reasonable expectation that any person who may have COVID-19 will be present.
The ETS requirements include the following and more:
• Develop & implement a COVID-19 plan
All covered employers must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan and must do so in writing if they employ more than 10 employees. The plan must include:
• A designated safety coordinator who must have compliance-enforcement authority
• A workplace-specific hazard assessment
• An outline of the involvement of non-supervisory employees in hazard assessment and the development and implementation of the plan and,
• Policies and procedures to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to other employees
• Patient screening and management
Employers are required to:
• Limit and monitor points of entries to workplace settings where direct patient care is provided
• Screen and triage patients, clients, other non-visitors including non-employees and
• Implement patient-management strategies
• Develop and implement policies and procedures to adhere to the standard and transmission-based precautions based on the CDC’s “Guidelines for Isolation Precautions”
Michael D. Billok is a member (partner) in the Saratoga Springs and Albany offices of the Syracuse–based law firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC. Contact him at email@example.com. Nihla F. Sikkander is an associate in Bond’s Albany office. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is an excerpt from the New York Labor and Employment Law Report. To see the full article, visit: https://www.bsk.com/new-york-labor-and-employment-law-report/osha-releases-covid-19-workplace-safety-rule-for-health-care-employers