Story at a glance
- Health care facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes, must have a written plan to combat COVID-19 spread.
- They should include common mitigation standards, like masking and physical distancing.
- Places with fully vaccinated workers will be exempted.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued an emergency temporary standard for healthcare workers to continue protecting them against contracting COVID-19.
Healthcare workers have been one of the most vulnerable groups throughout the pandemic, prompting public health officials to allocate medical resources and vaccine doses to them before other groups.
The new emergency standard set by the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration would ensure COVID-19 isn’t highly transmitted between healthcare practitioners and patients. It requires high-risk facilities to have a written plan prepared to help avoid COVID-19 spread.
Some locations where this rule will take place include in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Ambulatory and home health care workers will also likely follow the DOL’s regulations.
“This standard is necessary to give our healthcare workers deeply needed protections,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jim Frederick. “This tailored standard allows OSHA to help the workers most in danger of contracting the virus, while the updated guidance will give other businesses across the country the information they need to help protect unvaccinated workers and continue mitigating spread in the workplace.”
Per the order, covered healthcare employers must develop specific plans to combat COVID-19 transmission on premises that specifically manage patient screenings and workplace requirements.
Many of the requirements for a COVID-19 plan follow public health protocols in place for the past year, including using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks, physical distancing at least six feet, erecting physical barriers to aid in spacing, disinfecting procedures, and thorough reporting.
The standard also encourages requiring employers to provide paid time off for vaccinations and side effects.
Fully vaccinated workers will be exempt from masking, distancing, and barrier requirements under the temporary rule.
The rule goes into effect 14 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
“Too many of our frontline healthcare workers continue to be at high risk of contracting the coronavirus,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “This standard follows the science, and will provide increased protections for those whose health is at heightened risk from coronavirus while they provide us with critical healthcare services.”