OSHA set to issue its first enforceable standard regarding COVID-19 and the workplace. The Emergency Standard is scheduled to be published and effective March 15. In advance of the Emergency Standard, OSHA has released up-dated guidance which is expected to be incorporated into the new Standard.
OSHA has released updated guidance on mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, in accordance with President Biden’s January 21, 2021 Executive Order. The updated guidance, which applies to non-healthcare and non-emergency response workplace settings, recommends that employers implement COVID-19 prevention programs consisting of a hazard assessment, a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, measures to ensure that workers who are infected or potentially infected are separated and sent home from the workplace, and protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns. Some new measures addressed in the guidance include:
- providing employees with face coverings, unless their work requires a respirator;
- providing a COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to eligible employees;
- not distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated workers when implementing safety measures;
- providing paid sick leave for employees who must quarantine; and
- assigning a workplace coordinator responsible for implementing the workplace COVID-19 prevention program.
The guidance is not a new standard or regulation and creates no new legal obligations. However, OSHA is expected to issue an emergency temporary standard regarding COVID-19, which will likely contain many of the elements of the newly published guidance. Emergency temporary standards are issued when OSHA determines workers are in grave danger and an emergency standard is needed to protect them. They are published in the Federal Register, take effect immediately, and remain in effect until superseded by a permanent standard. OSHA is expected to issue the Emergency Temporary Standard by March 15, and SGR will be tracking agency announcements as they are issued. For questions regarding OSHA’s new COVID-19 guidance, contact Phillip Hoover, Matthew Clarke or Vickie Rusek.