OSHA recently released an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on COVID-19 covering settings where employees provide healthcare services or healthcare support services. Contractors providing healthcare support services, such as equipment and facility maintenance, may have to comply with several provisions in the ETS, such as establishing a COVID-19 plan, implementing precautions, requiring use of personal protective equipment, practicing physical distancing, using physical barriers, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, implementing health screening and medical management, supporting COVID-19 vaccinations, and providing appropriate training.
However, the standard does not apply to “well-defined hospital ambulatory care settings” where all employees are fully vaccinated, all non-employees are screened prior to entry, and people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not permitted to enter those settings. Ambulatory care means healthcare services performed on an outpatient basis, such as physician’s offices, hospital outpatient departments, ambulatory surgical centers, and specialty clinics. Affected employers must comply with most provisions of the standard within 14 days, and with the remaining provisions within 30 days. OSHA will use enforcement discretion to avoid citing employers who are making a good faith effort to comply with the ETS.
Contractors whose employees are not providing healthcare support services are exempt from the ETS. However, OSHA has updated their guidelines for employers based on the most current guidance from the CDC. Employers are urged to comply with the updated guidelines, which direct employers to:
- Grant paid time off for employees to get vaccinated;
- Instruct workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work;
- Implement physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in all communal work areas;
- Provide unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers with face coverings or surgical masks;
- Educate and train workers on your company’s COVID-19 policies and procedures;
- Suggest that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings;
- Maintain ventilation systems;
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfection;
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths;
- Implement protections from retaliation;
- Set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards; and
- Follow other applicable mandatory OSHA standards.