Home health care workers are among those targeted under a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) released June 10, 2021, by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
There are important exemptions to the ETS that include some home health settings (see below). OSHA notes the ETS is not intended to limit state or local government mandates or guidance that goes beyond the ETS requirements.
The standard will require non-exempt facilities to conduct a hazard assessment and have a written plan to mitigate virus spread, and requires healthcare employers to provide some employees with N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment, according to an OSHA release.
The standard also requires covered employers to provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects. Covered employees who have coronavirus or who may be contagious must work remotely or otherwise be separated from other workers if possible, or be given paid time off up to $1,400 per week. For most businesses with fewer than 500 employees, tax credits in the American Rescue Plan may be reimbursed through these provisions, OSHA notes.
The ETS exempts fully vaccinated workers from masking, distancing and barrier requirements when in well-defined areas where there is no reasonable expectation that any person will be present with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.
The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register. Employers must comply with most provisions within 14 days and with the remaining provisions within 30 days. OSHA will use its enforcement discretion to avoid citing employers who miss a compliance deadline but are making a good faith effort to comply with the ETS, the release notes.
Some healthcare settings will be exempt from the ETS, including “home health care settings where all employees are fully vaccinated and all non-employees are screened prior to entry and people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not present.”
The ETS language also notes that, when a provider enters a non-healthcare setting to provide healthcare services, the ETS “applies only to the provision of the healthcare services by that employee.”
We'll be covering more on how the ETS impacts home health agencies in upcoming issues of HHL.