Everyone is talking about COVID in the workplace. We put together a quick reference guide based on the questions we’re hearing from clients.
What is the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard for all workplaces?
OSHA issued an ETS (in November 2021) for all workplaces with more than 100 employees that requires employers to:
- Establish a mandatory vaccination policy.
- Provide routine COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated employees.
- Requires unvaccinated employees to wear face coverings except in specific circumstances.
The Vaccine ETS does not apply to employees who work alone, work exclusively from home or work exclusively outdoors. (There is also a healthcare and healthcare support services ETS was issued in June 2021 and renewed in December 2021.)
What are the specifics of the vaccine requirement?
OSHA is requiring employers with more than 100 employees at any time (including seasonal or temporary employees) to establish a mandatory vaccination policy, with reasonable accommodation for disability or sincerely held religious belief. The employer must maintain a list of vaccinated employees and a copy of proof of vaccination status.
The employer must also provide a reasonable amount of paid time off for an employee to receive their vaccine dose(s) and to recover from any side effects.
What about employees who aren’t vaccinated?
Employees who are not fully vaccinated (defined as 2 weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or 2 weeks after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine), must be tested for COVID-19 at least once every 7 calendar days and must wear suitable face coverings that fully cover the employee’s nose and mouth while indoors or occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
Exceptions to the face covering requirement are:
- When the employee is alone in a room with floor to ceiling walls and a closed door
- For a limited time while the employee is eating or drinking
- For a limited time for identification purposes for safety or security purposes
- When an employee is wearing a respirator
- Where the employer can demonstrate that the use of face coverings is infeasible or creates a greater hazard
If an employee has COVID-19, is it recordable on my OSHA log?
If an employee contracts COVID-19 and it is determined to be work-related (such as close contact with an infected coworker or another person on a job site), it may be recordable if it meets OSHA’s other requirements for a recordable illness:
- Treatment beyond first aid
- Days away from work or restricted work
OSHA requires all work-related hospitalizations to be reported to them within 24 hours and work-related fatalities to be reported within 8 hours.
How can we reduce the spread of COVID?
The best tools to control the spread of the virus are vaccination, wearing masks in public, practicing good personal hygiene (including handwashing) and practicing social distancing. The three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. (Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer) are safe and effective at preventing severe illness.
What should an employer do when an employee tests positive?
If an employee tests positive, encourage them to stay home except to receive medical care. They should follow directions from their healthcare provider or the local health department.
The most current CDC guidelines (Dec. 2021) for quarantine and isolation are:
- Persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and had symptoms may return to work 5 days after symptoms appear if they have gone at least 24 hours without a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and other symptoms are improving. They must wear a well-fitting face covering for at least 5 days after returning to work.
- Persons with severe COVID-19 should follow guidance from their healthcare provider before returning to work.
- Persons who test positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms (asymptomatic) can return to work 5 days after the positive test and must wear a well-fitting face covering for at least 5 additional days. If they develop symptoms, they should start the 5-day count from the first day of symptoms.
Employers are not required to conduct contact tracing. However, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, inform employees that a department or work unit had an employee test positive. Do ask employees who were in contact with the individual to monitor their health.
Don’t share the employee’s name or job duties. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you must maintain your employee’s confidentiality and may not release specific health information.
Safex Can Help
Contact us for COVID-19 prevention plans, recordkeeping assistance and respirator fit testing.