On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), contained in 29 C.F.R. Part 1910, Subpart U, solely for healthcare employers. Therefore, beginning July 6, 2021, long-term care facilities, including skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, will need to comply with most ETS requirements.
The standard addresses workplace COVID-19 hazards not covered by the General Duty Clause or existing regulations and are intended to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the healthcare industry, where workers have been at higher risk of infection across the various sectors they serve. It applies to healthcare services and healthcare support services, including skilled nursing facilities, assisted living services, emergency responders; home healthcare workers; and ambulatory care settings where suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients are treated.
The ETS combines previously issued workplace guidance from OSHA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) pertaining to healthcare and other high-risk industries. Also, in line with updated CDC guidance, the ETS provides exceptions for fully vaccinated employees for masking, distancing, and barrier requirements in well-defined areas where there is no reasonable expectation of COVID-19 exposure.
OSHA has provided a flow chart to determine if your workplace is exempt from any requirements of the COVID-19 Healthcare ETS.
Major aspects covered in the standard include:
- Performance of a formal hazard assessment
- Development of a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan
- Personal protective equipment requirements
- Mask, social distancing, and barrier requirements
- Cleaning and disinfection procedures
- Training on COVID-19 prevention and relevant policies and procedures
- Procedures for aerosol-generating procedures
- Adequate building ventilation
- Daily screening of employees, patients, and visitors
- Vaccination and paid leave
- Anti-retaliation policies
- Record keeping
- Reporting COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA
Healthcare employers subject to the ETS will need to act quickly to ensure compliance. Many facilities may already have implemented COVID prevention policies that meet ETS requirements. However, some of the requirements of the regulation are new, such as the Mini Respiratory Protection Program, paid leave requirements, and additional training, record keeping, and reporting obligations. Employers subject to the ETS will have 14 days from when the ETS was published, or July 6, 2021, to comply with most of its requirements, and 30 days, or July 21, 2021, to comply with the physical barriers, ventilation, and training requirements.
OSHA enforcement has been re-prioritized over the last several months. The National Emphasis Program launched by OSHA on March 12, 2021, directed at high-risk employers, including healthcare, accelerates the agency’s enforcement of safety standards related to COVID-19. Over the next nine months, OSHA has announced plans to target hospitals, assisted living, nursing homes, and other healthcare and emergency response providers treating patients with COVID-19 for onsite inspections. OSHA will use its enforcement discretion for employers making a good faith effort to comply with the ETS and provide documentation of a COVID-19 Prevention Plan. Compliance with the ETS and existing federal and local regulations will require diligent attention and continued prioritization to ensure that employees are being provided a safe workplace free from hazards.
If you have any questions, you can click here, or the button below, to schedule a customized consultation with Shari Solomon, Owner of CleanHealth Environmental. In addition, we invite you to learn more about our infection prevention and industrial hygiene program development services for long-term care facilities.