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This is an excerpt from a member-only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe.

OSHA sets temporary standard on COVID-19 safety for healthcare workers

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July 8, 2021
 

by A.J. Plunkett (aplunkett@decisionhealth.com)

A new OSHA emergency standard designed to help protect healthcare workers (HCW) from COVID-19 might only be in effect for six months, but its impact could be substantial.

Hospitals and other health facilities may have to erect even more physical barriers between workstations and will need to pay close attention to the requirements for a written COVID-19 safety plan and documentation on training.

In addition, the emergency temporary standard (ETS) requires employers to provide “reasonable time and paid leave for vaccinations and vaccine side effects,” with pay up to $1,400 a week, according to OSHA summaries of the ETS. But if your hospital or facility has less than 500 workers, “tax credits in the American Rescue Plan may be reimbursed through these provisions.”

While facilities were given until July 21 to build needed physical barriers, bring ventilation into compliance and do training, other parts of the ETS were enforceable July 5.
These may seem like heavy precautions to take for a public health emergency that is more than a year old and at summer’s start seemed to be waning, but OSHA rationalizes the ETS as trying to prevent even more HCW deaths from the infectious, airborne coronavirus.

According to the rule published in the Federal Register June 21, “In developing its main set of baseline estimates, OSHA makes an important simplifying assumption. For the alternative historic estimates, OSHA assumes that the average monthly number of HCW infections and fatalities over the next 6 months will, absent this ETS, equal the average monthly number of HCW infections and fatalities during the first twelve months of the epidemic, with April 1, 2020, as the starting point.”



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