U.S. Department of Labor Issues Updated Guidance on Protecting Unvaccinated and Other At-Risk Workers from the Coronavirus

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare 
   

OSHA Trade Release … August 13, 2021

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration today 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 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 multi-layered 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.

I strongly encourage you to review the updated guidance beneath the hyperlink in the first paragraph.  Also note my use of italics for the verbiage 2 paragraphs above this one.


Who Are “At-Risk Workers”?

Some conditions, such as a prior transplant, as well as prolonged use of corticosteroids or other immune-weakening medications, may affect workers’ ability to have a full immune response to vaccination. To understand more about these conditions, see the CDC’s page describing Vaccines for People with Underlying Medical Conditions and further definition of People with Certain Medical Conditions. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), workers with disabilities may be legally entitled to reasonable accommodations that protect them from the risk of contracting COVID-19 if, for example, they cannot be protected through vaccination, cannot be vaccinated, or cannot use face coverings. Employers should consider taking steps to protect these at-risk workers as they would unvaccinated workers, regardless of their vaccination status.


OSHA is working to protect all workers as well as their families and children.

Here is a link to information about the OSHA ETS in case you need additional information.