OSHA releases updated COVID Guidance and Narrowly Focused Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

OSHA today released both long awaited updated COVID guidance for employers based on the recently updated CDC recommendations, as well as the longer-awaited Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).

The ETS (click here) was significantly trimmed down to focus on healthcare settings.  The updated guidance, “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” (click here) applies to employers not covered by the ETS.

The following is from the executive summary of the new guidance document:

“This guidance is intended to help employers and workers not covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to identify COVID-19 exposure risks to workers who are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk, and to help them take appropriate steps to prevent exposure and infection. See Text Box: Who Are At-Risk Workers?

“CDC’s “Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People” (click here) explain that under most circumstances, fully vaccinated people need not take all the precautions that unvaccinated people should take. For example, CDC advises that most fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. People are considered fully vaccinated for COVID-19 two weeks or more after they have completed their final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the United States. However, CDC suggests that people who are fully vaccinated but still at-risk due to immunocompromising conditions should discuss the need for additional protections with their healthcare providers. CDC continues to recommend precautions for workers in certain transportation settings (click here). 

“Unless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19 exposure. This guidance focuses only on protecting unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers in their workplaces (or well-defined portions of workplaces).

“This guidance contains recommendations as well as descriptions of mandatory safety and health standards, the latter of which are clearly labeled throughout as “mandatory OSHA standards.” The recommendations are advisory in nature and informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Next Steps

VOSHA will be working on a state version of the ETS and then a Vermont version of the OSHA guidance – Vermont employers are referred to the OSHA guidance in the meantime.  We are also expecting further changes in state requirements in the coming days as Vermont reaches 80% vaccination among eligible residents.

Additional updates and resources will be provided as warranted as developments continue to evolve, but in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact us at info@aivt.org if you have any questions or otherwise want to discuss any related issues.

In addition, see this post here regarding the ACCD/VOSHA briefing for Vermont employers on changing state and federal requirements held on June 8, and this post here about other recent state and federal changes.  Also, see this post here regarding recent EEOC updates on vaccinations.