OSHA's Updated Guidance on Protecting Unvaccinated and At-Risk Workers

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
6.17 Digest
June 17, 2021
Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its guidance on mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Recognizing the revised CDC standards on masks and social distancing for fully vaccinated people, the updated guidance is intended to help employers identify COVID-19 exposure risks to workers who are unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk, and to help them take appropriate steps to prevent exposure and infection. Here's what you need to know.

Employers should continue to take steps to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers.

Unless otherwise required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their fully vaccinated workers who are not otherwise at-risk from COVID-19.

Keeping the Workplace Safe

OSHA’s updated guidance reinforces that employers should ensure a safe return-to-work and minimize COVID-19 transmission. In the case of a partially vaccinated workplace, it recommends “multi-layered interventions,” including: 

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.

Precautions for Higher-Risk Workplaces

The agency provides further recommendations for higher-risk workplaces, such as manufacturing, high volume retail and grocery, and food processing. In addition to the steps outlined above, higher-risk workplaces should: 

Breaking News

Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Affordable Care Act's (ACA’s) individual mandate, holding that Texas and other states did not have a legal right to sue. The ruling leaves the ACA intact. 

As a result, employers should note that the health care law remains fully in effect, including all coverage obligations and reporting requirements. 

Mandatory Standards for Healthcare & Public Transportation Settings

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

CDC still requires all people to wear masks on public transportation (e.g., airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares, ferries, ships, trolleys, and cable cars). This includes all personnel operating public transportation and workers at transportation hubs, including airports, bus stations, and seaports.

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