OSHA Issues COVID-19 Standards for Healthcare Workers

A blue door with two small holes in it.

It took six months, from the time President Joseph Biden issued an Executive Order, until the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) acted, but on June 10, the agency announced the issuance of an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers from contracting COVID-19.

Those who work in healthcare settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated are impacted. This includes employees in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities, emergency responders, home healthcare workers and those working in ambulatory care facilities.

Among the key requirements:

Develop and implement a COVID-19 plan: This includes designating workplace safety coordinator(s), conducting a workplace specific hazard assessment, obtain input and involvement from non-managers, monitor effectiveness of the plan and update as needed and include policies and procedures to minimize transmission to employees.

Patient screening and management: Employers must limit and monitor points of entry to places where direct patient care takes place; screen and triage patients, clients, residents, delivery people and others entering the setting for symptoms of COVID-19; and implement patient management strategies.

Standard and Transmission-based Precautions: Develop and implement policies and procedures to adhere to Standard and Transmission-based precautions in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Ventilation: Ensure that HVAC systems are used in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and design specifications and are cleaned and maintained.

Health screening and medical management:  Screen employees daily; provide free testing, though not mandated; require employees that test positive or suspect they have COVID-19 to promptly notify employer; notify certain employees withing 24 hours if someone tests positive; in most instances continue to pay employees who have been removed.

Vaccination: Provide reasonable time and paid leave for vaccinations and side effects.

Provide protective equipment: Provide and ensure employees wear face masks properly when indoors or when in a vehicle with others for work purposes.

Aerosol-generating procedures on persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19: Limit employees present to only those essential; perform procedures in an airborne infection isolation room, if available; and clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment after the procedure is completed.

Physical distancing and barriers: Ensure each employee is separated from all other people by at least six feet when indoors. Install cleanable or disposable solid barriers at each fixed work location in non-patient care areas where each employee is not separated from other people by at least six feet.

Cleaning and disinfection: Follow standard practices for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and equipment in accordance with CDC guidelines in patient care areas, resident rooms, and for medical devices and equipment.

Training: Ensure employees are properly trained in policies and procedures relating to COVID-19.

Anti-retaliation: Employees must be informed of their rights to the protections required by the ETS and cannot be fired or discriminated against for engaging in actions required by the ETS.

Record-keeping: In facilities where there are ten or more employees, keep a log of all instances of COVID-19.

Reporting COVID-9 fatalities and hospitalizations: Report to OSHA each work-related COVID-19 fatality within eight hours of learning of it and report each work-related COVID-19 in-patient hospitalization within 24 hours.

The ETS is aimed at protecting workers where suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are treated. It does not apply to:

  • First aid performed by someone who is not a licensed healthcare provider
  • Dispensing of prescriptions by pharmacists in retail settings
  • Non-hospital ambulatory care settings
  • Hospital ambulatory care settings where are employees are fully vaccinated and all non-employees are screen prior to entry and those who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are not allowed to enter
  • Home healthcare settings where all employees are fully vaccinated, and non-employees are fully screened
  • Healthcare support services not performed in a healthcare setting such as off-site medical billing
  • Telehealth services performed outside of a setting where direct patient care occurs.

The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale can assist your organization in developing a compliant OSHA COVID-19 program or assuring that your current program is ETS compliant.

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The Health Law Offices of Anthony C. Vitale