COVID-19 Update
June 15, 2021
OSHA Releases COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rule for Healthcare Employers
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a COVID-19 standard for healthcare employers. Healthcare employers will be required to abide by the new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) published on OSHA’s website on June 10. The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Voluntary guidance for other industries will follow.

The COVID-19 ETS applies to all settings where any employee provides healthcare services or healthcare support services. OSHA provided a flow chart to help employers determine if their workplace is covered under the COVID-19 ETS.

We reviewed the ETS to gain a better understanding of how it may be applied to our field. The Scope of the ETS is discussed on page 418 of the preamble document. Notably, Table VI.B.1 summarizes the individual North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes, and OSHA’s estimated percentage of entities and employees, which are covered by the ETS. Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Facilities are included as an affected industry. The index entries for the coding of these facilities also include group homes and ICFs. Additional state guidance on the applicability and implementation of the of the federal standards will be needed as we move towards compliance with the ETS. 

This newly released, mandatory emergency rule aligns with existing voluntary OSHA guidance, but now has enforcement provisions which include citations and financial penalties. Covered employers have 14 days to comply with most provisions of the ETS, although some provisions, such as those involving physical barriers, ventilation and training must be completed within 30 days of the standard’s publication in the Federal Register.

The ETS requirements include the following:

  • Develop and Implement a COVID-19 Plan - All covered employers must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan and must do so in writing if they employ more than 10 employees. The plan must include:
  • a designated safety coordinator who must have compliance enforcement authority;
  • a workplace-specific hazard assessment;
  • an outline of the involvement of non-supervisory employees in hazard assessment and the development and implementation of the plan; and
  • policies and procedures to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to other employees.
  • Patient Screening and Management - employers are required to:
  • limit and monitor points of entries to workplace settings where direct patient care is provided;
  • screen and triage patients, clients, other non-visitors including non-employees; and
  • implement patient management strategies.
  • Develop and implement policies and procedures to adhere to the Standard and Transmission-Based precautions based on the CDC’s “Guidelines for Isolation Precautions”
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - Employers are required to:
  • provide and ensure each employee wears a facemask indoors and when occupying a vehicle with other people for work purposes; and
  • provide and ensure employees use respirators and other PPE for exposure to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and for aerosol-generating procedures on a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
  • Implement specific aerosol-generating procedures on a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 
  • Ensure physical distancing 
  • Install cleanable and disposable physical barriers
  • Follow CDC guidelines to clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment
  • Ensure that employer-owned or controlled existing HVAC systems are used in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and design specifications for the systems and that air filters are rated Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) 13 or higher if the system allows it
  • Ensure health screening and medical management
  • Provide reasonable time and paid leave for vaccinations and vaccine side effects 
  • Ensure all employees receive training so they comprehend COVID-19 transmission, tasks and situations in the workplace that could result in infection, and relevant policies and procedures

The OSHA COVID-19 Healthcare ETS requires employers to notify their employees about potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace under certain circumstances. The ETS also protects employees from retaliation when exercising their rights under the ETS or for engaging in actions under the standard. Employers with more than 10 employees are required to establish a COVID-19 log of all employee instances of COVID-19 without regard to occupational exposure, and to follow requirements for making records available to employees/representatives. The ETS also requires that employers report all work-related COVID-19 fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations to OSHA.

In very limited and specific circumstances, the ETS also applies to instances where respirator use could offer enhanced worker protection, even when workers are not exposed to suspected or confirmed sources of COVID-19. The program is not a replacement or substitute for OSHA’s regular Respiratory Protection Standard. Notably, the program requires employers to provide specific training on user seal checks for respirators.

OSHA released a Frequently Asked Questions page to assist employers in understanding their compliance responsibilities under the ETS. 

OSHA stated that it will update the ETS as appropriate, “where it finds a grave danger from the virus no longer exists” for covered employees, or “new information indicates a change in measures necessary to address the grave danger.” 

In the meantime, employers in healthcare settingssuch as hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, ambulatory care facilities and those employing home healthcare workersmust review the ETS and take action to develop and implement plans to comply with the standard within the stipulated timelines.

As a reminder, several of these compliance provisions are also outlined for implementation in the New York State HERO Act, guidance for which is also anticipated to be released shortly.

If you have questions please contact Jennifer Jones, Director of Human Resources, at jjones@thearcny.org.

COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted Across Commercial Settings
Today, Governor Cuomo announced that COVID-19 restrictions and New York Forward industry-specific guidelines are immediately lifted for commercial settings. This includes social gathering limits, capacity restrictions, social distancing, cleaning and disinfection, health screening, and contact tracing information. This change is in response to the state achieving the target of 70% of adults having received at least the first dose of their COVID-19 vaccination series. Business may still implement health precautions for employees and patrons as a matter of company policy, provided they adhere to federal and state laws and regulations, including the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

OPWDD COVID-19 guidance and CDC health protocols remain in effect for our programs. 
We anticipate that additional guidance will be forthcoming following this major change in restrictions. 

This and all related updates will be cataloged on The Arc New York COVID-19 Resource Page for future reference. Please contact us if you have questions regarding any of this information.
CONTACT: Josh Christiana, Director for Quality, Compliance & Chapter Relations
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