OSHA Publishes Emergency Temporary Standard to Protect Workers from Covid-19

OSHA has published its ETS to protect workers from Covid-19. Heres' what's included:

In a move highly anticipated by business owners, safety professionals and employees around the country, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published an Emergency Temporary Standard to advance worker protection measures against the coronavirus. The agency estimates that the new ETS will help to protect more than 84 million workers from Covid-19.

Under the standard, covered employers (those who have a collective amount of employees in all facilities across the country that add up to 100 or more) must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy or adopt a policy that requires employees to choose to be vaccinated or undergo regular Covid-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.

In addition to the vaccination or testing policies, employers must also ensure that workers receive paid time to get vaccinated or tested. They should also be compensated for their time if they have side effects from the vaccine. 

According to a press release, the ETS also requires employers to do the following:

  • Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
  • Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria.
  • Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
  • Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on workers, and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “We must take action to implement this emergency temporary standard to contain the virus and protect people in the workplace against the grave danger of COVID-19. Many businesses understand the benefits of having their workers vaccinated against COVID-19, and we expect many will be pleased to see this OSHA rule go into effect.”

The standard will cover two-thirds of the nation's private-sector workforce. In the 26 states and two territories where there are OSHA State Plans, the ETS will also cover public sector workers employed by the state and local governments, including educators and school staff.

The ETS is effective immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register. Employers must comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication.

OSHA will be offering a few options of assistance for those who will be implementing the standard, including a webinar, frequently asked questions and other compliance materials

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