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OSHA Issues Workplace COVID-19 Rules to Protect Employees

June 25, 2021

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Gayle Lee, Director, Physician Payment & Quality

On June 21, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) setting forth requirements, effective immediately, that employers must meet that are intended to protect workers in health care settings from the risk of COVID-19. OSHA also released several fact sheets and FAQs regarding the ETS requirements. The protections apply to employees in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities; emergency responders; home health care workers; and employees in ambulatory care facilities where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated.

The ETS requires covered health care employers to comply with numerous requirements, including developing a COVID-19 plan for each workplace, screening and triaging patients and other visitors for COVID-19, requiring employees to wear personal protective equipment, meeting physical distancing requirements, establishing physical barriers, meeting ventilation standards, ensuring proper cleaning and disinfection, and providing training for employees. Employers will be required to continue providing benefits and pay to employees mandated to leave the workplace due to being confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19. Employers with 500 or more employees must pay the employee “the same regular pay the employee would have received had the employee not been absent from work, up to $1400 per week, until the employee meets the return to work criteria.”

States and U.S. territories with their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health plans will need to show that their standards are as effective as the new federal standard or make modifications to be in line with the federal standard.

There is an opportunity for the public to submit comments in response to the rule by July 21, 2021.

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