We’ve been saying for some time now that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was expected to release an emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 – now that day has finally come! On June 10, 2021, OSHA published the emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) to its website, along with a fact sheet, a summary, numerous FAQs, and other guidance. The ETS takes effect immediately upon publication to the Federal Registrar (which has not yet occurred), with compliance obligations effective within 14 days for most portions of the new regulation, and within 30 days for other portions (see below).
The ETS applies only to settings where employees provide healthcare services or healthcare support services (with some defined exceptions). These may include hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, emergency response, some home healthcare environments, and the like. OSHA has provided a flow-chart for employers to determine if the ETS applies. Because coverage depends on the location and circumstances in which employees work, an employer might have to comply with the ETS as it relates to some areas of their business or to some employees but not others (e.g., a manufacturer with a Health Department / Nurses Center that employs a healthcare professional in the operation).
The ETS mandates numerous prevention strategies, recordkeeping, and other logistical requirements. Some of the key obligations include:
In addition to other personal protective equipment requirements, the ETS requires compliance with a so-called “Mini Respiratory Protection Program” in some cases where workers are not exposed to COVID-19 sources but where respirators offer enhanced protection. For those operations or circumstances where OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard would otherwise apply, the Mini Respiratory Protection Program may not be substituted.
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