The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced revised guidance for employers pertaining to workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance is a result of an executive order signed by President Biden which directed OSHA to issue stronger guidance on COVID-19 workplace safety.
The National Law Review wrote: As with OSHA’s previous recommendations, this guidance is not mandatory and does not have the same legal effect as an OSHA standard. However, it does give some insight into what OSHA expects to include in an emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) which the new Administration wants the agency to consider and potentially implement by March 15, 2021.
Most employers will be familiar with the elements in the guidance, but here are some of the significant new measures addressed in the guidelines:
- Employers should provide all workers with face coverings (i.e., cloth face coverings, surgical masks), unless their work task requires a respirator. Many states did not require this and OSHA did not previously recommend employers purchase masks.
- Provide a COVID-19 vaccine at no cost to eligible employees.
- Do not distinguish between vaccinated workers and those who are not vaccinated for purposes of implementing safety measures.
- Minimize the effect of quarantine and isolations by implementing non-punitive policies and provide paid sick leave. Employers with less than 500 employees are encouraged to provide FFCRA leave which is still available (though not mandatory) through March 31, 2021 under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
- Provide guidance on screening and testing.
- Assign a workplace coordinator responsible for COVID-19 issues.
- OSHA’s guidance related to the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and further changes are expected with President Biden’s new Administration. James “Jim” Frederick, a former United Steelworkers safety official, has been named by the Administration to act as the head of OSHA on an interim basis. Frederick has indicated that in that role he will be focused on drafting and implementing an enforceable emergency COVID-19 standard.
Learn more at www.natlawreview.com.