The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published a comprehensive new guidance for employers about how they are expected to act to protect their employees from Covid-19.
The guidance was the result of an executive order issued by President Biden as soon as he was inaugurated, and is expected to serve as the basis of new Emgerency Temporary Standards regulations he also ordered the agency to develop and issue no later than March 15 (AA, 2-1-21, P. 2).
The 6,000-word document is primarily a repetition of previous OSHA guidances issued, but there are significant differences for employers to be aware of.
For one thing, employers are now responsible for providing their employees with a Covid 19 vaccine at no cost. Other protective measures must still be maintained after all employees are vacinnated.
Employers must provide workers with cloth face coverings or surgical masks, unless their work requires a respirator. Masks must have at least two layers and cannot feature exhalation valves or vents Many states do not require masks and neither did OSHA until this guidance.
Workers must quarantine if they come into contact or were nearer than six feet from someone who tests positive. This applies to employees who had direct physical contact with a person with Covid 19 (hugged or kissed them); shared eating or drinking utensils; and if someone with Covid 19 sneezed, coughed or got respiratory droplets on them.
Employers are directed to minimize the effect of employee quarantines and isolations by implementing non-punitive policies and provide paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than 500 employees are encouraged to provide Families First Coronavirus Response Act leave which is still available (although not mandatory) through March 31, 2021, although it may be extended by Congress
Each employer also must conduct a risk assessment and assign a workplace coordinator responsible for dealing with Covid issues as they arise.