OSHA Updates COVID Guide for Non-Health Workplaces – Employment and Human Resources


United States: OSHA Updates COVID Guide for Non-Health Workplaces

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This is an update of the previous Holland & Knight blog, “Employers Can Encourage Employees To Get COVID-19 Vaccine, But Need Creates Problems,” April 26, 2021.

The Occupational Safety and Health Authority (OSHA) recently updated its COVID-19 guidelines to target unvaccinated and otherwise at risk workers in the non-healthcare workplaces and suggest best practices to protect these workers from the transmission of COVID-19. (See previous Holland & Knight Warning, “OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Guidelines for Employers on Unvaccinated and Vulnerable Workers,” June 30, 2021.)

In addition to the more general recommendations, the guideline includes an appendix that focuses on best practices for high-risk workplaces such as high-volume retail stores that are at increased risk of transmitting COVID-19 due to the following factors:

  • Close contact: Unvaccinated and vulnerable workers work closely together
  • Duration of contact: Unvaccinated and endangered workers have long-term contact with their colleagues
  • Type of contact: Unvaccinated and vulnerable workers are likely to be exposed to the virus through breath droplets or contaminated surfaces

In these workplaces, including high volume retail stores, OSHA recommends employers to take additional measures to protect unvaccinated and vulnerable employees. This includes breathtaking break, arrival and departure times; Providing visual cues as a reminder to practice social distancing; and implementation of strategies to improve ventilation.

The report also recommends practices specifically tailored for high volume retail. At these workplaces, OSHA recommends employers:

  • Encourage the wearing of masks for unvaccinated or unknown customers
  • Enforce social distancing and use barriers between workplaces when social distancing is not an option
  • Further move credit card readers away from unvaccinated or vulnerable workers to increase the distance between those workers and retail customers
  • Shift the primary warehouse activities of unvaccinated or at-risk workers to off-peak hours or after work to reduce these workers’ contact with customers

The new OSHA guidelines state that most employers are no longer required to take measures to protect workers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and who are not otherwise at risk from exposure to COVID-19. OSHA recommends employers encourage vaccination and give workers paid time off to vaccinate.

Finally, the newly issued OSHA guidance deviates from previous guidelines (see previous Holland & Knight blog, “New OSHA Guidance for Recording Obligations When Mandating Vacciation”, 11. Requiring all employers to consider the side effects of COVID-19 vaccination by May 2022. OSHA will reassess the agency’s position at that time to determine the best course of action for the future. “

The content of this article is intended to provide general guidance on the subject. Expert advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstances.

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