OSHA COVID-19 Update – Guidelines For Most Employers Only | Blank Rome LLP
[co-author: Jessie Chen]*
On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), the new one conditions for most healthcare facilities, along with Orientation aid for employers who do not work in the healthcare sector. This post looks at OSHA’s guidelines for non-healthcare employers. While employers have expected more definitive guidance from the federal government’s top health and safety agency, they must instead consider whether and to what extent they should take the proposed measures to continue promoting safe workplaces.
The latest OSHA guidelines state that most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at risk, unless state, state, local or other laws, regulations do so and regulations required. But employers are encouraged Work with their workforce to take steps to protect unvaccinated or otherwise vulnerable workers, including:
- Granting paid leave to employees to get vaccinated.
- Instructing all workers infected with COVID-19 or showing symptoms of COVID-19 to stay at home.
- Instructing unvaccinated workers who have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID to stay at home.
- Implementation of physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise vulnerable workers in communal work areas.
- Free face coverings for unvaccinated and otherwise vulnerable workers.
- Education and training of workers on the company’s COVID-19 policies in accessible formats and languages.
- Suggesting unvaccinated customers, visitors and guests who wear face coverings.
- Maintain adequate ventilation.
- Performing routine cleaning and disinfection. These include the following cleaning and disinfection recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”).
- Record and report work-related cases of COVID-19 under 29 CFR 1904.
- Implement protection against retaliation for workers who raise concerns about COVID-19 related hazards.
- Follow all other applicable mandatory OSHA standards.
OSHA offered additional guidance to employers who operate workplaces that are considered to be higher risk environments, including those where employees have close or prolonged contact, or shared transportation, apartments, or common areas. OSHA is in these environments recommends the following additional steps to contain the spread of COVID-19 for unvaccinated and otherwise at risk workers:
- Breathtaking break times at workplaces with a large population.
- Amazing arrival / departure times.
- Providing visual cues to remind people to keep physical distance.
- Improve ventilation.
- Adequately separate unvaccinated or otherwise at risk workers on food processing or assembly lines.
- Suggestion of masks for unvaccinated or unknown customers and visitors.
- Removal of electronic payment terminals / credit card readers from unvaccinated or otherwise vulnerable workers.
- Relocation of warehouse activities for unvaccinated or otherwise endangered workers to off-peak hours or after work.
While most of these recommendations are consistent with the initial guidance from OSHA, the CDC, and other governmental and regulatory orders, the continued emphasis on mitigation efforts confirms OSHA’s expectations of employers in all industries. We encourage all employers to read the guidelines carefully and, if necessary, consider adapting their current policies and practices. It’s also important to remember that OSHA is just one of the agencies providing COVID-19 guidance to employers; We are following the guidelines of the Equal Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”), Department of Labor (“DOL”), state and local authorities and will provide updates as they are released. As always, we’re here to help.
* Jessie Chen was the summer partner of Blank Rome 2021