In response to the Presidential Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, January 21, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considered and determined that additional measures could be taken to prevent occupational exposures to SARS-CoV-2 and the spread of the resulting disease, COVID-19, that results in illnesses and death. OSHA examined, among other things, COVID-19 inspection and violation history, worker complaints and Hazard Alert Letters (HALs) issued, and petitions from stakeholders requesting that OSHA issue an ETS and determined that specific requirements aimed at controlling COVID-19 hazards in the healthcare industry, i.e., beyond the general duty clause, would improve worker protections.
Thus, OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19. The ETS was published in the Federal Register on June 21, 2021 and became effective the same day. The ETS has multiple sections – healthcare (29 CFR § 1910.502), mini respiratory protection program (29 CFR § 1910.504), severability (29 CFR § 1910.505), and incorporation by reference (29 CFR § 1910.509).
During the period of the ETS, covered healthcare employers must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan to identify and control COVID-19 hazards in the workplace. As part of their COVID-19 plan, these employers must address and implement various requirements to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in their workplaces, including patient and non-employee screening and management requirements, standard and transmission-based precautions, controls for aerosol-generating procedures, physical distancing, physical barriers, personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfection, ventilation, employee health screening and medical management, vaccination, training, anti-retaliation, recordkeeping, and reporting.
This new Directive establishes OSHA’s field inspection and enforcement procedures designed to ensure uniformity in enforcing the ETS when addressing workplace exposures to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease.
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