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OSHA issues COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for healthcare employers

OSHA-Temp-Standard-GraphicBy Janet A. Hendrick and Phoebe B. Mitchell

On June 10, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its long-awaited Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) regarding mandatory safety standards for COVID-19 for healthcare employers pursuant to President Biden’s January 21, 2021 Executive Order. The ETS outlines what healthcare employers must do to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19. OSHA also issued voluntary guidelines for employers outside of the healthcare sector.

The rule is designed to protect workers who face the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace – namely, those working in healthcare settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients may be treated. This includes employees in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities; emergency responders; home healthcare workers; and employees in outpatient care facilities. The ETS exempts fully vaccinated workers from masking, distancing, and barrier requirements in well-defined areas where there is no reasonable expectation that any person with COVID-19 will be present.

Here are the key requirements of the ETS:

  • Written COVID-19 Plan: Healthcare employers with more than 10 employees must develop and implement a written plan that designates a safety coordinator who has the authority to ensure compliance with the ETS. The plan must include a workplace-specific hazard assessment and involve non-managerial employees in the hazard assessment and plan development. Additionally, the plan must include policies and procedures to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 between employees.
  • Patient Screening and Management: Employers must limit and monitor points of entry to settings where direct COVID-19 patient care is provided. Employers must also screen and triage patients, clients, other visitors and non-employees.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Employers must provide and ensure that each employee wears a facemask when indoors or in a vehicle with other employees for work purposes. Employers must provide and ensure that each employee working directly with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients use respirators and other PPE to prevent exposure to the virus.
  • Social Distancing: Employers must keep people six feet apart when indoors.
  • Physical barriers: Employers must install cleanable or disposable barriers at each work location in non-patient care areas where employees are not separated by six feet.
  • Vaccination: Employers must provide reasonable time and paid leave for vaccination and vaccine side effects.
  • No Cost: All requirements of the ETS must be implemented at no cost to the employees.

The rule will take effect when it is published in the Federal Register and healthcare employers must comply with the majority of the guidelines 14 days after publication.

Phillips Murrah’s labor and employment attorneys continue to monitor developments regarding COVID-19 rules in the workplace to provide up-to-date advice to our clients.


Janet Hendrick portrait

Janet Hendrick is a Director and member of the Firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group.

For more information on this alert and its impact on your business, please call 214.615.6391 or email me.

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United States Department of Labor launches Essential Workers, Essential Protections initiative

By Phoebe B. Mitchell

In another demonstration of its pro-worker agenda, President Biden’s Administration has launched a new webpage: Essential Protections During the COVID-19 Pandemic[1]. The webpage, created by the United States Department of Labor (DOL)’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), is aimed at furthering the WHD’s goal of “protecting and enhancing the welfare of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Phoebe B. Mitchell is a litigation attorney who represents individuals and both privately-held and public companies in a wide range of civil litigation matters.

Online trainings are among the many resources provided in the Essential Protections webpage. The training page, titled Essential Workers, Essential Protections,[2] states: “Workers in grocery stores, health care, delivery services, retail establishments, agriculture, and other essential industries have remained on the job despite many potential risks to their own health or that of their families. The Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring that these, and all workers, receive the workplace protections provided under the law.”

The Essential Protections During the COVID-19 Pandemic webpage includes a new Frequently Asked Questions platform which combines many existing articles the WHD has promulgated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Frequently Asked Questions address many common issues facing employers and employees during the pandemic, including questions about pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act and employee leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Additionally, the platform touches upon the plethora of sub-topics affecting employees amid the pandemic, such as business closures, COVID-19 testing in the workplace, quarantining, and teleworking.

The WHD’s revamped website also includes a page entitled “How to File a Complaint.”[3] The page includes user-friendly information for potential claimants regarding the necessary steps to file a complaint, the investigative process, and the nearest WHD office.

The DOL’s renewed focus on worker rights means employers should be more vigilant than ever to comply with federal, state, and local employment laws. Phillips Murrah’s labor and employment attorneys continue to monitor developments to provide up-to-date advice to our clients regarding the DOL’s policies.


For more information about this article, please call Phoebe B. Mitchell at 405.606.4711 or email her at pbmitchell@phillipsmurrah.com.

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