The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA; Washington, D.C.) has issued an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from contracting coronavirus. OSHA announced the new standard alongside new general guidance for all industries, both of which are aligned with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC: Washington, D.C.) guidelines.
The emergency temporary standard establishes new requirements for settings where employees provide healthcare or healthcare support services, including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and ambulatory care settings where suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients are treated.
The standard requires:
- Non-exempt facilities to conduct a hazard assessment and have a written plan to mitigate virus spread. Healthcare employers must provide some employees with N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment. In addition, covered employers must ensure 6 feet of distance between workers, or in situations where this is not possible, employers should erect barriers between employees where feasible.
- Covered employees to provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects. Covered employees who have coronavirus or who may be contagious must work remotely or otherwise be separated from other workers if possible or be given paid time off up to $1,400 per week. For most businesses with fewer than 500 employees, tax credits in the American Rescue Plan may be reimbursed through these provisions.
- Fully vaccinated workers to be exempt from masking, distancing, and barrier requirements when in well-defined areas where there’s no reasonable expectation that any person will be present with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.
The standard is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. OSHA plans to update the standard if necessary to align with CDC guidelines and changes in the pandemic. More information is available on the OSHA website.