The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its COVID-19 emergency temporary standard for the health care industry, with nonbinding guidance for other employers. According to OSHA, the standard aims to "protect health care and health care support service workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19 in settings where people with COVID-19 are reasonably expected to be present." Covered health care employers must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan to identify and control COVID-19 hazards in the workplace, and must also implement certain other measures to reduce workplace transmission of COVID-19, such as patient screening, increased cleaning and ensuring the use of personal protective equipment.
OSHA has also updated its guidance to help employers and workers in other industries protect workers who are still not vaccinated, with a special emphasis on other industries noted for prolonged close-contacts like meat processing, manufacturing, seafood, grocery and high-volume retail. The new guidance includes the following statement:
“Unless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure. This guidance focuses only on protecting unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces (or well-defined portions of workplaces).” (emphasis added).
This guidance contains advisory and informational recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards, the latter of which are clearly labeled throughout as "mandatory OSHA standards," and is found at the link Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov).
John Falcone and Luke Malloy handle employment law matters at PLDR Law. Feel free to contact us if you have questions about this matter.