OSHA issues COVID-19 rules for healthcare employers | Fox Rothschild LLP
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its interim final rule on June 10, 2021, regarding occupational exposure to COVID-19 in healthcare settings (“the rule”).
The rule, which exceeds 900 pages including comments, goes into effect 14 days after its formal publication (with the exception of the provisions on physical barriers, ventilation and training, which take place after 30 days).
The rule will apply to employers in settings where an employee provides health care services or health care support services. Health care services include hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, emergency responders, home health workers and employees of ambulatory care facilities. It will apply not only to establishments whose primary function is to provide health care, but also to integrated health care establishments in prisons, manufacturing plants, schools and similar operations.
Health care support services fall under the rule insofar as they are provided in health care facilities. This includes services such as reception / admission of patients, catering services for patients, maintenance of equipment and facilities, housekeeping services, laundry services, patient treatment services. medical waste and medical equipment cleaning services. To the extent that these support services are provided outside of a health care facility (for example, offsite laundry services or prescription dispensing in a retail establishment), the rule does not apply. does not apply.
The rule also exempts:
- non-hospital outpatient facilities where all non-employees are screened before entry and where people suspected or confirmed of COVID-19 are not allowed to enter
- well-defined inpatient outpatient care facilities where all employees are fully immunized, all non-employees are screened prior to entry, and individuals suspected or confirmed of COVID-19 are not permitted entry
- home care facilities where all employees are fully immunized, all non-employees are screened before entry, and people suspected or confirmed of COVID-19 are not present
- telehealth services provided in a setting where no direct patient care is provided
The rule requires specified healthcare employers to develop a plan to identify and control the dangers of COVID-19 in the workplace. The plan should include:
- management direction
- worker participation
- hazard identification and assessment
- risk prevention and control
- evaluation and improvement
- coordination and communication on multi-employer sites
- Education and formation
For employers with more than 10 employees, the plan must be in writing. OSHA announces that it will publish a healthcare-specific plan template that meets these requirements, along with other documents to help with compliance.
Covered employers must also implement other requirements regarding:
- patient screening and management (e.g. triage)
- standard and transmission-based precautions (infection prevention practices where the presence of an infectious agent is suspected)
- personal protective equipment, including face masks, face shields and respirators,
- controls for aerosol-generating procedures (e.g. intubation)
- physical distancing (if possible)
- Physical barriers
- cleaning and disinfection (including hand washing and surface cleaning)
- health screening and medical management (including screening of employees, notifying employees of potential exposure, removing infected employees from the workplace, and granting paid time off to provide paid time off in certain situations )
- record keeping
- declaration (of deaths and hospitalizations of employees)
The paid leave requirement applies to employers with more than 10 employees on the effective date of the section. When an employee has been fired from the workplace due to actual or suspected exposure to COVID-19, the employer must continue to pay the same regular compensation (excluding overtime) and the same benefits that the employee would have received had he not been absent. There is no limit on the number of times an employee can receive this salary. However, there is a weekly cap of $ 1,400 per week. For employers with fewer than 500 employees, effective the third week of the employee’s dismissal, the required payment is reduced to two-thirds of the same regular salary, to a maximum of $ 200 per day. Employers can also deduct from the payments the amount of compensation the employee receives from other sources, such as paid sick leave or unemployment insurance.
These OSHA rules aren’t the first word on the subject (the CDC previously issued guidelines on healthcare facilities: managing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.) They won’t be the last, either.
These are just the latest in a series of federal, state, and local requirements employers are expected to learn, adopt, and follow. Expect more regulations to come.