It has been 38 years since OSHA has issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), but the agency has determined that COVID-19 presents such a serious risk to healthcare workers that they have issued an ETS for Healthcare. Under this ETS, employers are required to help protect healthcare workers in settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated.
An ETS is issued when new hazards, toxic substances, or agents determined to be physically harmful put workers in grave danger and additional protection is needed to keep them safe. Once issued, they take effect immediately and also serves as a proposal for a permanent standard. State Plans are also required to have an ETS that is at least as effective 30 days following the OSHA ETS publication.
This ETS requires healthcare employers (see section (a)(2) for exceptions) develop and implement a site-specific COVID-19 plan for each workplace. Requirement highlights include:
- the COVID-19 plan must be written if the employer has more than 10 employees;
- a workplace-specific hazard assessment must be conducted to identify potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19;
- the plan must address the hazards identified in the assessment and minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 for each employee, as defined within the ETS;
- the plan must include policies and procedures to determine employees’ vaccination status to qualify for specified exemptions;
- the employer must monitor each workplace to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the COVID-19 plan and update, as needed;
- employers must develop and implement policies and procedures to adhere to Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions in accordance with CDC’s “Guidelines for Isolation Precautions” (incorporated by reference, § 1910.509); and
- employers must provide, and ensure that employees wear facemasks in specified settings.
Keep in mind that OSHA requires annual respirator fit testing under specified procedures (Appendix A to §1910.134). OSHA has been monitoring diligently during the pandemic and has conducted hundreds of inspections resulting in COVID-19 related citations. It’s important that you take time to ensure that you’re meeting the applicable elements of this ETS or contact HCN and we can ensure that you’re compliant and keeping your workers safe. The full ETS can be found here.