Skip to main content
Top Button
OSHA Revises COVID-19 Guidance As Pandemic Rages On OSHA Revises COVID-19 Guidance As Pandemic Rages On

OSHA Revises COVID-19 Guidance As Pandemic Rages On

On August 13, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued revised guidance to assist with controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, a move many believe is an attempt to align itself more closely with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control. While there is much to digest within OSHA’s updated guidelines, there are four main takeaways to highlight.

First, and most notably, is OSHA’s push for mandatory vaccination policies, making it a point to “emphasize" that vaccination is the most effective way to protect against severe illness or death from COVID-19.” For those employers hesitant to enact such a policy, OSHA encourages an alternative—a policy that, in the very least, requires unvaccinated employees to undergo regular testing in addition to mask-wearing and social distancing. Unfortunately, OSHA does not give greater context to the word “regular,” but considering the Biden administration currently requires its unvaccinated employees to test on a weekly basis, weekly testing is likely a safe bet.

Additionally, because studies have shown that fully vaccinated individuals may still become infected with and, therefore, spread the more contagious Delta variant, OSHA is recommending that all employees, regardless of vaccination status, don masks while working inside. While OSHA limits its recommendation to worksites “in areas of substantial or high transmission,” it does not provide any baseline to define substantial or high transmission. And though the guidance does not elaborate on what indoor areas, specifically, it recommends mask-wearing, a fair interpretation is one that includes communal areas like restrooms, elevators, and meeting spaces.

Third, OSHA is recommending that employers remove from the workplace:

  1. All infected people;
  2. All people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; and
  3. Any people who are not fully vaccinated who have been exposed to COVID-19 and do not meet certain testing requirements.
Further, fully vaccinated employees who have been exposed to COVID-19 are recommended to test roughly five days post-exposure and wear a face covering unless and until they receive a negative test. However, given the above-discussed recommendation for indoor face coverings, a fully vaccinated employee with a negative COVID-19 test should still wear a mask in communal areas in the eyes of OSHA.

Finally, the guidance outlines more specific—and certainly rigorous—recommendations for meat processing, manufacturing, and assembly line employers where there is, arguably, a greater risk for transmission of COVID-19. For example, OSHA is encouraging such facilities to implement adequate ventilation systems, utilize impermeable barriers, and stagger arrival, departure, and break times.

The full guidance is available here, and Ice Miller is at the ready to address employers’ questions or concerns.

For more information, contact Abigail Barr or the Labor & Employment attorney with whom you normally work.

View Full Site View Mobile Optimized