by Brianna Crandall — September 20, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in recent weeks issued updated guidance to help employers protect workers from the coronavirus. The updated guidance reflects developments in science and data, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) updated Covid-19 guidance issued July 27.
The updated guidance expands information on appropriate measures for protecting workers in higher-risk workplaces with mixed-vaccination status workers, particularly for industries such as manufacturing; meat, seafood and poultry processing; high-volume retail and grocery; and agricultural processing, where there is often prolonged close contact with other workers and/or non-workers.
OSHA’s latest guidance:
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks in order to protect unvaccinated workers;
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers who have close contacts with people with coronavirus wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative coronavirus test at least 3-5 days after such contact;
- Clarifies recommendations to protect unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, seafood processing and agricultural processing; and
- Links to the latest guidance on K-12 schools and CDC statements on public transit.
OSHA continues to emphasize that vaccination is the optimal step to protect workers and encourages employers to engage with workers and their representatives to implement multilayered approaches to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers from the coronavirus.
As part of the agency’s ongoing commitment to review the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard every 30 days, OSHA also said that the safeguards set forth by the standard remain more important than ever. After reviewing the latest guidance, science and data, and consulting with the CDC and partners, OSHA has determined the requirements of the healthcare ETS remain necessary to address the grave danger of the coronavirus in healthcare. OSHA will continue to monitor and assess the need for changes in the healthcare ETS each month.
Our priority is the safety and health of workers, and we will continue to enforce the law to ensure workers are protected from the virus while they are on the job, including through OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on COVID.
The updated guidance, Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, is available on the OSHA website.