On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) with a very narrow scope, focused on the healthcare industry. Fortunately, OSHA also updated its January 29, 2021 guidance for all employers to reflect the increasing prevalence of vaccinations and the lifting of mask orders around the country. (See our prior blog on the January guidance here.) This new guidance provides a helpful reminder for employers to remain steadfast in their many COVID-related health and safety efforts.
As with the January update, this new guidance is not a standard or regulation, and creates no new legal obligations. Nonetheless, it will likely be one yardstick used to measure compliance with OSHA’s “General Duty Clause,” which requires employers to provide workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious harm.
The new guidance specifies ways to protect unvaccinated and other at-risk employees, mitigate the spread of COVID, and encourage vaccinations, including the following:
- Encourage employees to get vaccinated (See Lake Effect’s prior blog on this issue)
- Provide employees with paid time off to get vaccinated (See Lake Effect’s prior blog on EPSL leaves for employees to receive or recover from COVID vaccinations)
- Require unvaccinated employees (and visitors) who are exposed to or experiencing symptoms of COVID to stay home and seek treatment
- Maintain workplace safety measures for unvaccinated and at-risk workers including physical distancing, physical barriers, reduced employee density in spaces, flexible or staggered work schedules, alternative meeting options, remote work, and the like
- Provide proper masks to unvaccinated and at-risk workers when working indoors. OSHA noted that unvaccinated persons who are not otherwise at-risk do not need to wear a mask outdoors, unless otherwise required by federal, state, or local requirements
- Educate and train employees on COVID preventive measures and practices
- Encourage unvaccinated visitors, clients, and guests to wear masks when onsite
- Maintain ventilation systems to minimize transmission and spread of COVID
- Follow CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations
- Implement a process for employees to anonymously express concerns about COVID safety practices and ensure that they are not discriminated or retaliated against in any way
- Record and report COVID infections and deaths consistent with applicable OSHA requirements (See Lake Effect’s blogs on this issue)
Employers should work closely with legal counsel to understand all requirements and implement a COVID-19 workplace prevention program consistent with this new OSHA guidance and any applicable local guidance and orders. Lake Effect is here to help you through this process and ensure that you are taking all possible steps to provide a workplace free from the recognized hazards created by the COVID.
We continue to monitor important legal and HR developments, as well as COVID-related updates from federal, state, and local authorities. Please keep watching our blogs and emails for these important updates, as well as discussions of how compliance meets culture. To dive into these issues, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-844-333-5253