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OSHA Issues COVID-19 Workplace Standard

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that healthcare employers must follow. At the same time, OSHA concurrently issued updated, non-mandatory guidance for non-healthcare employers.

The ETS was published in the Federal Register on June 21, 2021. Employers must comply with most provisions by July 6, 2021, and with provisions involving physical barriers, ventilation, and training by July 21, 2021.

What Employers Are Covered by the New ETS?

The new ETS applies to all settings where any employee provides healthcare services (services provided by professional healthcare practitioners such as doctors, nurses, and EMTs, but excluding first aid) or healthcare support services (services that facilitate the provision of healthcare services), including most hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

What Requirements Does the New ETS Impose?

Employers covered by the new ETS must:

  • Develop and implement a COVID-19 plan for each workplace. Employers must conduct a hazard assessment relating to COVID-19 and have a plan that addresses the hazards identified. Employers should designate one or more workplace safety coordinator(s) to develop this COVID-19 plan and monitor its effectiveness. If the employer has more than 10 employees, the plan must be written.
  • Provide appropriate PPE, social distancing, and physical barriers. Employees must generally wear a facemask or respirator. Employers must also implement procedures for social distancing and install physical cleanable or disposable solid barriers in certain work areas.
  • Provide paid leave for employee vaccination. Employers must also provide paid leave if employees experience side effects from vaccination.
  • Screen employees. Employers must screen each employee before each shift and require each employee to promptly notify it if the employee is COVID-19 positive, is suspected to have COVID-19, or is experiencing the symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Pay employees who are removed from the workplace. When an employer removes an employee for confirmed or suspected COVID-19, it must continue to pay employees. The ETS requires the continuation of benefits and regular pay, up to $1,400 per week and, for employers with fewer than 500 employees, a reduced amount of up to $200 per day starting in the third week of paid leave. Employers may set off these obligations through compensation employees receive through other sources such as state or local paid COVID-19 leave or employer-provided paid sick leave.
  • Screen and manage visitors and patients. If employees provide direct patient care, the ETS requires patient screening and management, including limiting and monitoring points of entry to the workplace and screening all clients, patients, residents, delivery people, visitors, and other non-employees.
  • Notify employees of COVID-19 cases. Employers must notify employees within 24 hours if a person who has been in the workplace (including employees, clients, patients, customers, visitors, and other non-employees) is COVID-19 positive.

The ETS also requires employers to establish a COVID-19 log of all employee instances of COVID-19 (whether occupational or otherwise), and report all COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA.

What Guidance Exists for Non-Healthcare Industry Employers?

In addition to the ETS, which applies only in the healthcare industry, OSHA has also issued updated guidance to assist employers in other industries. OSHA permits employers to follow CDC guidance as it applies to vaccinated individuals; this explicitly includes allowing vaccinated workers to resume work without masks or physical distancing, if otherwise permitted by state and local law.

SESCO Management Consultants will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s COVID-19 Resource Center as additional information becomes available.

SESCO retainer clients and members of select associations can call or email SESCO to discuss specific industry, state and/or company questions and concerns. Those receiving these alerts that are not SESCO clients can contact SESCO by phone, fax or email to explore support options.