The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released an emergency temporary rule to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) for employers that provide health care services. The new rule applies to most employers that provide health care services or health care support services. OSHA has published a helpful guide for employers to determine whether they are covered by the new rule. Once the new rule appears in the Federal Register (which should happen any day now), covered employers will have 14 days to implement some parts of the rule, and 30 days to implement the remaining parts of the rule.
The new rule requires covered employers to develop and implement a COVID-19 plan, including the designation of a safety coordinator to ensure compliance. Employers with more than 10 employees must put their plans in writing. The rule requires employers to implement policies and procedures regarding: patient screening and management; adherence to the Standard and Transmission-Based precaution protocols in the “Isolation Precautions” guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC); providing employees with and ensuring they wear appropriate personal protective equipment, including facemasks or respirators, depending on the particular setting and situation; the implementation of physical distancing, and, in certain situations, physical barriers; cleaning and disinfection in accordance with CDC guidelines; ventilation, including the maintenance of HVAC systems; daily health screening for employees; medical removal of employees who test positive for or have suspected COVID-19, and return-to-work criteria; and training on COVID-19 transmission, tasks, and situations that could result in infection. Employers required to have a written plan must keep copies of the plan available for the duration of the rule. OSHA has provided a helpful fact sheet to summarize the most important parts of the new rule.
Although much of the rule doubles down on practices already required by state governments and state health authorities for employers in health care settings, the new federal rule requires covered employers to provide “reasonable time and paid leave (e.g., paid sick leave, administrative leave) to each employee for vaccination and any side effects experienced as a result of vaccination.” Also, if a covered employer with more than 10 employees must medically remove an employee because of confirmed or suspected COVID-19, the employer must continue to provide the employee with benefits and pay (up to $1,400 per week), until the employee meets the rule’s return-to-work criteria. Covered employers with more than 10 but fewer than 500 employees, get a price break, though. After the initial two weeks, these employers may pay the employee two-thirds of the regular rate of pay (up to $200 per day), until the employee meets the rule’s return-to-work criteria. Finally, the new rule requires covered employers to inform employees of their rights to the rule’s protections, and prohibits employers from retaliating or otherwise discriminating against employees for exercising their rights under the rule.
Tips: The rule contains some exceptions for certain types of workplaces adjacent to healthcare settings, so use OSHA’s guide to help determine whether you’re a covered employer. If you’re a covered employer, you may have already implemented many of the rule’s requirements under your state or local rules for healthcare settings, but you should still read the new rule in detail. Use the resources on OSHA’s website about the new rule both to bring you as the employer into compliance (see the FAQs) and to communicate with your workers about their rights (see OSHA’s poster, both in English and Spanish). Contact your Vigilant safety professional with questions.