OSHA issues new COVID-19 safety rules for healthcare workers

The U.S. Labor Department released new COVID-19 workplace safety rules for healthcare June 10, including a requirement that healthcare employers provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from side effects.

The emergency temporary standard applies to healthcare settings where suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients are treated. This includes hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, as well as home healthcare and ambulatory care settings. 

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration said there are some exemptions for healthcare providers who screen out potentially infected patients. 

The rules take effect once published in the federal register, which officials said will be soon. The compliance deadline for most provisions is within 14 days and within 30 days for the remaining provisions.

"Too many of our front-line healthcare workers continue to be at high risk of contracting the coronavirus," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a news release. "As I said when I came to the department, we must follow the science. This standard follows the science and will provide increased protections for those whose health is at heightened risk from coronavirus while they provide us with critical healthcare services. Given the pace of vaccinations, this standard, along with the guidance OSHA, the CDC and other agencies have released, will help us protect front-line healthcare workers and end this pandemic once and for all."

Under the emergency temporary standard, nonexempt facilities are required to conduct a hazard assessment and have a written plan to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, said OSHA. The rules also require healthcare employers to provide and ensure workers wear facemasks "when indoors and when occupying a vehicle with other people for work purposes"; provide and ensure workers use respirators and other personal protective equipment for exposure to people with suspected or confirmed coronavirus; and ensure social distancing between workers, or place physical barriers between employees in non-patient care areas where employees are not socially distanced, according to a fact sheet.

Additionally, the rules call on healthcare employers to provide workers with paid time off to get inoculated and to recover from side effects. Healthcare employees who are infected or may be contagious must work remotely or otherwise be separated from other workers if possible or be given paid time off up to $1,400 weekly, said OSHA. The federal government said tax credits in the American Rescue Plan may be paid back through these provisions for most businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

The emergency temporary standard for healthcare — which was announced alongside updated guidance for other industries related to unvaccinated workers — comes after President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January directing the Labor Department to act to reduce the COVID-19 risk for American workers. 

Read more about the rules here



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