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OSHA Issues COVID-19 Safety Rule: Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) workplace safety rule that requires health care employers to protect workers from on-the-job risk of COVID-19 infection. This rule follows President Biden’s executive order directing OSHA to pursue an ETS for COVID-19 in high-risk workplaces. The rule does not apply to other high-risk workplaces such as meatpacking plants, grocery stores, and high-volume retail locations, but OSHA plans to issue updated guidance for such employers. The ETS takes effect upon publication in the Federal Register and requires health care employers to comply with most of the safety standards within 14 days of publication.

Applicability of the ETS

The rule applies to health care employers in all settings where any employee provides health care services (services provided by professional health care practitioners) or health care support services (patient admission, food services, equipment and facility maintenance, housekeeping, laundry, medical waste handling, medical equipment cleaning). The rule does not apply to the following:

  • dispensing of prescriptions by pharmacies
  • non-hospital ambulatory care settings where all non-employees are screened prior to entry and people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not permitted to enter
  • well defined hospital ambulatory care settings where all employees are fully vaccinated, and all non-employees are screened prior to entry and those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not permitted to enter
  • home health care settings where all employees are fully vaccinated, and all non-employees are screened prior to entry and those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not permitted to enter
  • health care support services not performed in a health care setting (off-site laundry or medical billing)
  • telehealth services performed outside of a direct patient care setting

Requirements of the ETS

The ETS requires the health care employer to take the following actions:

  1. Minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to employees
  2. Effectively communicate and coordinate with other employers when employees of different employers share the same physical location
  3. Protect employees who must enter residences or locations controlled by persons not covered by OSHA

The ETS and the above requirements are limited to a duration of six months, during which OSHA must complete a permanent standard. We will apprise you of any changes in the above requirements once the permanent standard is published.

If you have any questions concerning this rule or any other legal health care matters, please contact me at sjarvaweiss@norris-law.com.

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