OSHA Updates COVID Guidelines for Non-Healthcare Workplaces – Employment and HR

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United States: OSHA Updates COVID Guidelines for Non-Healthcare Workplaces

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This is an update to Holland & Knight’s previous blog, “Employers May Encourage Employees to Receive COVID-19 Vaccine, But Demand It Raises Concerns,” April 26, 2021.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently updated its COVID-19 guidelines to address unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in non-healthcare workplaces, suggesting best practices to protect these workers against the transmission of COVID-19. (See previous alert from Holland & Knight, “OSHA Issues COVID-19 Guidelines for New Employers Regarding Unvaccinated, At-Risk Workers,” June 30, 2021.)

Beyond the more general recommendations, the guide includes an appendix focused on best practices for high-risk workplaces such as high-volume retail stores, where the risk of COVID-19 transmission is increased due to following factors:

  • Close contact: unvaccinated and at-risk workers work closely with each other
  • Duration of contact: unvaccinated and at-risk workers have continuous contact with co-workers for an extended period
  • Type of contact: Unvaccinated and at-risk workers are likely to be exposed to the virus through respiratory droplets or contaminated surfaces

In these workplaces, including high-volume retail, OSHA recommends that employers adopt additional practices to protect unvaccinated and at-risk employees. These include amazing break, arrival and departure times; provide visual cues to remind people to practice social distancing; and implement strategies to improve ventilation.

The report also recommends practices specifically tailored to high-volume retail. In these workplaces, OSHA recommends that employers:

  • encourage mask wear by clients who have not been vaccinated or whose vaccination status is unknown
  • apply social distancing and use barriers between workspaces if social distancing is not possible
  • keep credit card readers away from unvaccinated or at-risk workers so that there is an increased distance between these workers and retail customers
  • move the primary storage activities of unvaccinated or at-risk workers to off-peak or after-hours to reduce these workers’ contact with customers

New OSHA guidelines say most employers are no longer required to take action to protect workers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and are not otherwise workers at risk of COVID-19 exposure . OSHA recommends that employers encourage vaccination, by giving employees paid time off to get vaccinated.

Finally, unlike previous guidelines (see Holland & Knight’s previous blog, “New OSHA Guidance for Recording Obligations When Mandating Vaccination,” May 11, 2021), the new OSHA guidelines provide that they “will not enforce the registration requirements of 29 CFR 1904. to require all employers to record worker side effects from COVID-19 vaccination until May 2022. OSHA will reassess the agency’s position on this time to determine the best course of action to follow.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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