Author: Jeremy Wherren CSP, CHMM, CMQ/OE, Corporate Health and Safety Officer
OSHA announced it will issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers from contracting COVID-19. The standard focuses only on the healthcare industry with workers at highest risk to have contact with someone infected with the virus. The standard also exempts various health care facility settings. For non-exempt facilities, the standard includes the following requirements:
- A hazard assessment must be done and a written plan to mitigate virus spread. For employers with more than 10 employees the plans must be written.
- In settings where direct patient care is provided, health screening a control of points of entry must be applied for patients.
- With some listed exceptions, health care employees may be required to wear face masks, and/or respiratory PPE where required (hazard assessment or during aerosol-generating procedures).
- Subsection 1910.504 of the standard allows for implementation of a “mini-respiratory program” for respirators only used for exposure to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Respirators used for protection against other hazards must be used and maintained in accordance with full OSHA respirator protection standard.
- Use of other PPE (gloves, face shields, gowns etc.) as deemed necessary from hazard assessment of the workplace or task.
- Provisions for physical distancing and barrier protection.
- Provisions for cleaning and disinfection including cleaning high touch surfaces at least once per day or manufacturers instruction.
- Employers who own or control structures with HVAC must ensure it is optimized for proper ventilation and filtration.
- Employees must be health screened daily, there are options how to implement screening in the standard. Special notification procedures for symptoms or exposure must be implemented.
- Provisions for medical removal from the workplace for infected/potentially infected employees.
- Health care employers must support COVID-19 vaccination by providing reasonable time and paid leave to receive a vaccination.
- Provision for employee training on COVID-19, and facility protocols.
- Implementation of anti-retaliation measures for employees
- Record keeping of COVID-19 positive cases on a COVID-19 log in addition to recordkeeping in accordance with 29 CFR 1904 that meet confirmed case criteria.
- Non-exempted employers must comply with some provisions within 14 days and with the remaining provisions within 30 days of publication in the Federal Register.
For more information on the ETS see here: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets
For all other industries, OSHA also announced new general industry guidance, which is aligned with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance. The guidance is not mandatory and is provided here: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework