With the COVID-19 virus continuously mutating to produce new variants seemingly every few months, each one of us should take measures to protect ourselves from the virus while trying to get through our daily routines. The workplace is no exception and this is especially true for our healthcare workers. This is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect workers in healthcare settings who face the highest COVID-19 hazards. To help you understand what this OSHA policy is all about, we’ll break down the ETS for you.
- Is my agency covered by the COVID-19 healthcare ETS?
The ETS applies to workers of institutions where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated. These include hospital, nursing home, and assisted living facility employees, home healthcare workers, emergency responders, and workers of ambulatory care facilities where COVID-19 treatments are administered. In terms of home care, both medical and non-medical home care providers regardless of their Medicare certification, are covered by the ETS. The ETS does not however apply to home healthcare settings which screen all non-employees before entry, have zero suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, and have all of their employees fully vaccinated.
- What does the ETS require?
The ETS requires several measures to be put in place within your organization. Some of the most common ones are personal protective equipment like facemasks, respirators, etc. to be used in certain situations, physical distancing, physical cleanable and disposable barriers, cleaning and disinfection protocols, ventilation, reasonable time and paid leave for employee COVID-19 vaccinations and recovery from side effects, employee training for COVID-19 infections and relevant policies and procedures, recordkeeping of COVID-19 occupational exposures, mini-respiratory protection program, and reporting of COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA, among others. The most important key requirement of the ETS however are the design and implementation of a COVID-19 plan that includes policies and procedures to minimize the virus transmission, and Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions which should be developed in accordance with CDC guidelines. Patient screening and management that limit and monitor entry points, and health screening and medical management for employees (e.g., self-monitoring, COVID testing at no cost to employees, etc.) should also be adopted.
- What should our agency do by December 6, 2021?
If your agency is covered under the ETS, then you might want to take note of the policy’s first major deadline of December 6 which mandates that employers have their COVID-19 vaccination policies ready and have their unvaccinated employees wear masks. On this date, covered organizations are expected to establish a mandatory vaccination policy or a vaccine-or-testing policy. Your agency must also identify and keep a record of each employee’s vaccination status and maintain a roster that is readily available for examination and copying of that employee or anyone with that employee’s consent. There should also be a policy in place with regard to supporting employee COVID-19 vaccinations such as paid time off and reasonable time and paid sick leave to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects. Should an employee test positive for COVID-19, the organization should require that the employee provide prompt notice and consequently remove the employee from the workplace until they meet the criteria to return to work. Should there be fatalities or hospitalizations, they must be reported to OSHA within eight (8) hours and 24 hours, respectively. Lastly, your agency must provide information about the ETS and its associated policies and procedures to all your employees at the level that each worker would understand.
As your Intelligent Care Partner, we want to keep you abreast of all the latest policies and information that can have an impact on your agency operations such as the ETS. To know how we can be your partners in care provision, schedule a demo with Data Soft Logic now. Schedule a demo with us now.