Employer Fact Sheet
OSHA’s Updated Guidance on Mitigating the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

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Updated: November 22, 2021

On November 4, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its anticipated COVID-19 rules for roughly 116,000 private businesses with 100 or more employees firm or company-wide, a sweeping new measure that's designed to protect 84 million workers on the job. Those rules—currently on hold pending a legal challenge in federal court—require vaccination or weekly testing for COVID-19 by January 4, 2022, with exceptions only for people with a medical disability or religious accommodation. Beginning December 6, 2021, employers will also be required to offer workers paid time off for vaccination and recovery from possible side effects, as well as require unvaccinated workers to wear face coverings at the workplace.

The current OSHA guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, updated August 13, 2021, remains in effect. This guidance is designed to help employers protect workers who are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk, and also implement new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention involving workers who are fully vaccinated but located in areas of substantial or high community transmission. This guidance is for workers not covered by OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).

Here are important updates that every employer should know:

1. Masks and Face Coverings

Consistent with CDC’s latest guidance, OSHA encourages employers to:

OSHA refers to the CDC website for a map of the U.S. and the levels of community transmission by county. 

2. Vaccination

OSHA continues to emphasize that “vaccination is the most effective way to protect against severe illness or death from COVID-19.” The guidance strongly encourages employers to: 

3. Testing & Quarantines

OSHA encourages employers to:

Additional Protections for Higher-Risk Settings

OSHA recommends additional protections for workers in meat, poultry, and seafood processing facilities, high-volume retail, and grocery and agricultural processing settings, including:

OSHA’s updated guidance also reiterates that employers should follow all other applicable mandatory OSHA standards, including requirements for PPE, respiratory protection, sanitation, protection from bloodborne pathogens, and employee access to medical records. 

These recommendations are advisory in nature and informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as part of their obligation to provide a safe and healthful workplace. This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations.

Mandatory Standards for Healthcare Settings & Public Transportation

While this guidance addresses many workplaces, many healthcare workplace settings will be covered by the mandatory OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard.  

The CDC requires all people to wear masks on public transportation (e.g., airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares, ferries, ships, trolleys, and cable cars) into or within the United States. This includes all personnel operating public transportation and workers at transportation hubs, including airports, bus stations, seaports and U.S. ports of entry.

Public health guidance on COVID-19 is constantly evolving. Health Action Alliance is committed to regularly updating our materials once we've engaged public health, business and communications experts about the implications of new guidance from the public health community and effective business strategies that align with public health goals. Together, we can turn the tide against COVID-19 and build a stronger, healthier future.