OSHA Issues COVID-19 Regulation for Healthcare and Guidance for Other Industries

At the last minute, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA significantly revised their approach to regulating business and industry regarding COVID-19 protection requirements. Initially,

OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) was to cover all regulated entities, but the version released on June 10, 2021, only applies to the health care industry. Printing operations will be able to keep using their own tailored, comprehensive measures, combined with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA, to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in their facilities. 

In conjunction with the release of the standard, OSHA updated its guidance, Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, for workplace measures that need to be taken for fully vaccinated employees.  OSHA has formally adopted the CDC’s recently released guidance and incorporated it into its new updated guidance that was issued on January 29, 2021, in response to President Biden’s Executive Order. 

OSHA’s guidance clearly states that vaccinated employees no longer need to wear face coverings or practice social distancing. OSHA’s guidance now focuses on protecting unvaccinated employees from being exposed to the COVID-19 virus unless stricter state or local laws apply. The guidance has several main components: 

  • Protecting and consideration for accommodating at-risk workers (i.e., those that cannot get vaccinated or those with conditions that may affect the workers’ ability to have a full immune response to vaccination).
  • Protections for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers.
  • Steps to encourage workers to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Incorporation of up-to-date guidance issued by other entities, such as the CDC. 

The protections for unvaccinated or at-risk employees have remained unaltered and they include enforcing the proper use of face coverings or PPE when appropriate, implementing physical distancing requirements, maintaining ventilation systems, and separating from the workplace all infected people, all people experiencing COVID symptoms, and any unvaccinated people who have had a close contact with someone with COVID-19.  

OSHA reiterated that its guidance does not impose any legal requirements. However, OSHA has been using its authority under the Act’s General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1), which requires employers to provide their workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.  

We will continue to track developments at OSHA and will share with you any updates on revisions to guidance and regulatory activities. For more information, please contact PRINTING United Alliance’s Government Affairs Department at govtaffairs@printing.org or Adriane Harrison, VP of Human Relations Consulting at aharrison@printing.org.  

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