Breaking Down the new OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard: Subpart U

Breaking Down the new OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard: Subpart U
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As COVID-19 continues to evolve, so do the guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA recently released a new emergency temporary (ETS) standard regarding COVID-19. The following write-up breaks down the nuts and bolts of the new standard, diving into some of its key components.

What Is The New Emergency Temporary Standard?

COVID-19 ETS Subpart U is a new OSHA temporary standard aimed at protecting healthcare workers from the dangers associated with COVID-19. This standard is effective as of June 21, 2021. Employers must comply with most provisions within 14 days, and with provisions involving physical barriers, ventilation, and training within 30 days. 

Who is Affected by the Emergency Temporary Standard

The new standard applies to:

  • Healthcare settings where any employee(s) provide healthcare services or healthcare support services defined as "promoting, maintaining, monitoring, or restoring health."
  • Medical clinics within manufacturing locations and other locations, including schools staffed by licensed health care providers (RNs, LPNs, PTs, etc.).

The new standard does not apply to:

  • Non-licensed first responders (such as trained CPR/AED/First Aid providers in manufacturing locations).
  • Support services such as off-site laundries, medical billing departments, etc.
  • Telehealth services outside of direct care settings.
  • Well-defined hospital ambulatory care settings where ALL employees are vaccinated AND all non-employees are screened before entry.
  • Home health care where employees are vaccinated and patients are screened.

Key Highlights of the COVID-19 ETS Subpart U

Below is a summary of some of the key elements included in the emergency temporary standard.

  • Identify and designate a COVID-19 workplace coordinator.
  • Perform a hazard assessment to identify where and how employees could be exposed to COVID-19 (must involve non-management personnel in the hazard assessment). 
  • Identify measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 through engineering, administrative and PPE controls.
  • Must develop and implement policies and procedures to adhere to "Standard and Transmission Mission-Based precautions" based on CDC guidelines.
  • Provide and ensure the proper wearing of PPE.
  • Minimize the number of employees (and therefore, exposure) who perform aerosol-generating procedures (intubation, suction, etc.).
  • Enhance proper cleaning/disinfection after suspected or confirmed positive cases at the facility.
  • Maintain six feet of distance indoors and provide physical barriers indoors where feasible.
  • Enhance ventilation and maintain filters per manufacturer instructions.
  • Provide health screening and medical management for employees.
  • Provide reasonable time off and paid-time-off (PTO) options for employees to obtain vaccinations and subsequent side effects (if any).
  • Ensure all employees receive training to understand COVID-19 transmission, symptoms, preventive measures, and practices to reduce exposure for specific tasks.
  • Inform employees of the rights to protection as required by the standard.
    • Employers may not discharge or discriminate against employees for exercising their rights under the ETS. For work covered by the standard, employees have the right to:
      • Protection from firing or discrimination for exercising your rights under the ETS. 
      • Protection from punishment for reporting COVID-19 workplace hazards or concerns (among others). 
  • Must establish/maintain a COVID-19 log (if employing more than ten employees) of all employees infected by COVID-19 (this is in addition to OSHA 300 log).1
  • Must reimburse employees for the cost of COVID-19 tests and time awaiting test results (when employees miss work).
  • Must institute medical removal benefits (MRB) to employees who must isolate or quarantine (only if employing more than ten employees).  It is the responsibility of the employer to maintain levels of benefits and compensation for any employee who goes out on COVID-related leave.2
  • Must notify employees who have been in close contact with infected employees and/or patients.
  • Must notify employees who work in "defined areas" with those who are infected, except those who are already working in a COVID-19 unit or if the employee was wearing PPE or respirator.
  • Must post workers' rights and anti-retaliation posters. 
1 COVID-19 LOG: This is separate from the OSHA 300 Log.  Employers must have a separate COVID-19 log where ALL employees who contract COVID are put on, regardless of where they contracted it. 
 
2  If there is a compensable workers' compensation claim relating to a positive COVID-19 result identified as a workplace injury/illness, or a workplace injury/illness requiring isolation/quarantine, the employer would be responsible for continuing benefits for the first three days, after which, workers' compensation benefits will be triggered.  The employee must also remain eligible for any incentives or benefits being offered, such as a bonus after X amount of continued work/time is completed.
 
If there is NOT a compensable WC claim (i.e., an employee has to isolate/quarantine after being identified as a close contact to a confirmed case), the employer would be responsible for continuing benefits when the employee is away from work.

Non-Healthcare Setting Guidance

The following guidance is tailored towards those in a non-healthcare-specific setting, such as schools or manufacturing facilities.

Record cases on the OSHA 300 log after making a "good faith" effort to determine exposure.  

  • Ask employees about the potential origin of the infection.
  • Ask the employee about work/non-work activities.
  • Assess employee's workplace – was there contact/potential contact with other infected employees?
  • If work-relatedness is established, the case must meet recording criteria (time away, medical treatment beyond first aid, etc.) to be entered on the log.

Report COVID hospitalizations and fatalities to OSHA only if:

  • Hospitalization occurs within 24 hours of exposure (highly unlikely).
  • Fatality occurs within 30 days of exposure.

Employers can report COVID-19 fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations by: 

  • Calling the OSHA Area Office that is nearest to the site of the incident (see www.osha.gov/contactus/bystate); 
  • Calling the OSHA toll-free telephone number, 1-800-321-OSHA (1-800-321-6742); 
  • Submitting information through OSHA's website.

Protect non-vaccinated employees and other "at risk" workers (those who are transplant recipients, who regularly take immune-weakening medicine (such as corticosteroids), or otherwise identified in CDC guidance regarding underlying medical conditions).

OSHA advises that employers encourage employees to be vaccinated. 

Grant PTO to obtain vaccinations (not a requirement like it is for the healthcare industry). 

OSHA advises that businesses institute a Workplace Prevention Program (to defend potential claims, prevent infection, etc.).

  • Ensure social distancing and the wearing of masks for non-vaccinated employees (who work indoors).
  • Implement physical barriers.
  • Maintain ventilation systems.
  • Ensure unvaccinated visitors wear face coverings.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect work areas.
     

Questions?

Talk to your trusted RCM&D advisor today for more on OSHA temporary emergency standards for COVID-19 safety. You can also go to OSHA's website for more information as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

For more information regarding SISCO’s Vaccine Tracking Solution, visit our website

 

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