United States: OSHA issues temporary emergency standards to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 infection
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On June 10, 2021, the US Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (âOSHAâ) ad “an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from the coronavirus.” The standard focuses on healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, with the aim of increasing protections for those who âcontinue to be at high risk of contracting the disease. [disease] . . . while they provide us with essential health services. “
The new standard, linked here, will be effective upon posting in the Federal Register. The standard sets out new requirements for environments where any employee provides health care services or health care support services, including hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other similar locations. A few defined exceptions are included in the text of the standard, including circumstances relating to the vaccination status of the workplace, entry screening practices and whether there is a reasonable expectation of the presence of a suspected person or confirmed coronavirus. Along with the new standard, OSHA also issued a organizational chart to help employers determine if they are subject to the new rules. Depending on the requirement, covered employers will be required to comply with the standards within 14-30 days of the effective date.
The standard describes various COVID-19 protections that employers in the healthcare sector must adhere to. First, it requires covered employers to develop and implement a COVID-19 plan for each workplace and designate one or more safety coordinators to implement and monitor the plan. The plan should address identified âspecific workplace hazardsâ and develop policies and procedures to minimize the risk of transmitting COVID-19 to employees. Employers should also keep a diary to record cases of COVID-19 infection among employees, whether or not the instance is related to COVID-19 exposure at work, and promptly report certain events (such as COVID-19 related deaths and hospital patients). hospitalizations) to OSHA.
The standard also requires employers to screen all entrants to facilities where direct patient care is provided, implement policies and procedures to ensure adherence to certain CDC guidelines, and provide personal protective equipment (PPE). to employees in certain defined scenarios. In addition, the standard describes certain safety precautions that must be taken when aerosol-generating procedures are performed on people suspected or confirmed of COVID-19 infections.
Covered employers are also required to implement physical distancing measures, physical barriers, cleaning and disinfection practices, and adhere to certain ventilation protocols. In addition, the standard requires employers to adhere to certain âscreening and medical management guidelinesâ to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. Employees should also be given reasonable time and paid time off for vaccinations and any associated side effects. Finally, the standard requires employers to train employees in the transmission and prevention of COVID-19, and to inform them of their rights, which they must be able to exercise without reprisals or discrimination.
The standard released last week has been overdue for months; President Biden has asked OSHA to consider issuing temporary emergency standards for workplace safety in a Executive Decree dated January 21, 2021.
For more information on the OSHA Temporary Emergency Standard, see OSHA fact sheet.
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