On June 21, 2021, OSHA adopted its COVID Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for healthcare workplaces. The standard makes a requirement out of what most healthcare providers are already doing—physical distancing, PPE, sanitization, patient screening, etc. However, there are a few additional things that employers may need to add to their regimen and—most notably—they needed to have the whole process in a written (if >10 employees) COVID emergency plan, which was to be in place and trained on by July 21, 2021.
Some key takeaways:
- The ETS is aimed at protecting workers facing the highest COVID-19 hazards—those working in healthcare settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated. This includes employees in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities; emergency responders; home healthcare workers; and employees in ambulatory care facilities where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated.
- Therefore, the ETS applies, with some exceptions, to settings where any employee provides health care services or health care support services.
- Covered entities must designate a COVID safety coordinator.
- Employers with more than ten (10) employees must provide paid leave to employees removed from the workplace due to conditions consistent with ETS guidelines, with some exceptions.
- Anti-Retaliation. Employers must not discharge or in any manner discriminate against employees for exercising these rights or for engaging in actions required by the standard.
- Employers with more than 10 employees must establish a COVID-19 log of all employee cases of COVID-19 (regardless of whether the employee contracted it at work)
- The ETS does not apply to:
1. Well-defined hospital ambulatory care settings where all employees are fully vaccinated, all non-employees are screened prior to entry, and people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not permitted to enter those settings;
2. 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 those settings.(This will likely exempt most small outpatient clinics or other medical facilities.)
- Home health care settings where all employees are fully vaccinated, all non-employees are screened prior to entry and people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not present;
- Health care support services not performed in a health care setting (e.g., off-site laundry, off-site medical billing)
- Telehealth services performed outside of a setting where patients are physically present;
- First aid performed by an employee who is not a licensed health care provider; or
- Dispensing of prescriptions by pharmacists in retail settings.
OSHA has provided tools to make compliance with the ETS as simple as possible, including a plan template and a simple flowchart to determine if the ETS or any of its provisions applies to a specific employer.
If any of your employees provide health care services or health care support services, it is important you determine if the ETS applies. Even if your worksite does not fall under the ETS, the resources on OSHA’s website can be a great starting point to establish a written COVID plan. While we all hope COVID requirements are soon going to be a thing of the past, it is a wise idea to have a plan in place in case there is a resurgence or a new pandemic arises in years to come.
If you have questions or want assistance drafting a COVID emergency plan, reach out to Goosmann Law Firm’s employment attorneys today!