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CLIENT ALERT: OSHA Updates Covid Safety Guidance

June 17, 2021

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has updated its COVID-related safety recommendations for industries other than healthcare. (For healthcare employers, please see our Client Alert on OSHA’s new Emergency Temporary Standard for the healthcare industry, which imposes mandatory standards and paid leave requirements for most healthcare employers).

The revisions to OSHA’s non-mandatory Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace focus on protecting unvaccinated workers. Adopting some or all of the practices recommended by OSHA can help employers reassure employees and demonstrate that all reasonable steps were taken to protect the workforce.

The guidance states that, if all employees are fully vaccinated, employers in industries other than healthcare “no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure . . . .” Where not all employees are fully vaccinated, OSHA recommends that employers engage with their workforce to develop and implement multi-layered protection measures, including one or more of the following:

      • Paid time off for vaccinations and recovery from any side effects;
      • Requiring symptomatic employees or those with known exposure to stay home from work;
      • Physical distancing for unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers;
      • Face coverings for unvaccinated workers;
      • Training on COVID-19 policies for employees in a language they understand;
      • Suggesting that unvaccinated customers or other visitors wear face coverings;
      • Improving and maintaining ventilation systems;
      • Performing routine cleaning and disinfection;
      • Establishing an anonymous process for workers to complain about COVID-19 related hazards; and
      • Prohibiting retaliation against employees who voice concerns about workplace safety, including COVID-19.

In addition, the guidance reminds employers that other mandatory OSHA safety standards still apply, including the obligation to provide a safe workplace and to record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths attributable to the workplace.

If you have questions about OSHA’s latest guidance, please contact the Labor and Employment team at Potter Anderson (Jennifer Gimler Brady, Kathleen Furey McDonough, or Jennifer Penberthy Buckley).