On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health and Administration (OSHA) issued new standards for healthcare employers and updated its guidance for non-healthcare employers regarding COVID-19.
For non-healthcare employers, the updated guidance relies on and is consistent with the CDC’s recent recommendations that fully vaccinated people may resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing unless required by law.
Based on the CDC’s recommendations, OSHA now states that “most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure in any workplace, or well-defined portions of a workplace, where all employees are fully vaccinated.”
OSHA’s guidance focuses only on protecting unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces. The definition for “otherwise at-risk workers” relies upon the CDC’s guidance for those individuals with compromising conditions and applies regardless of vaccination status. OSHA continues to recommend the following to protect employees:
- Granting paid time off for employees to get vaccinated
- Instructing workers to stay home from work if they are sick, have been exposed to COVID-19 and are not vaccinated, or have COVID-19 symptoms
- Implementing physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in all communal areas.
- Provide unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings or surgical masks.
- Properly educating workers on the employer’s COVID-19 policies and procedures.
- Suggesting that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings.
- Maintaining ventilation systems.
- Performing routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
- Following other applicable mandatory OSHA standards.
- Taking additional precautions for those workplaces where there is a heightened risk of spreading COVID-19.
OSHA’s healthcare standards are mandatory, but the non-healthcare guidance contains only recommendations. Although OSHA’s guidance is not mandatory, it is viewed as proper guidance for a safe and healthful workplace. All employers have a general duty to provide their workers with a safe and healthful workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious physical harm. OSHA’s guidance helps inform employers how best to fulfill that duty and be protected from liability.
For additional details view:
- Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework#ftn1
- Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
- COVID-19 Vaccines for People with Underlying Medical Conditions https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/underlying-conditions.html
If you have questions about how best to handle your COVID-19 protocol, please reach out to one of BrownWinick’s Employment & Labor attorneys for assistance.
Written by BrownWinick attorney Danielle Smid, along with 2021 Summer Law Clerk Marcus Weymiller.
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