OSHA Updates Voluntary COVID-19 Guidance to Protect Non-Vaccinated and At-Risk Employees

SLMA News,

From SLMA's OSHA counsel at Kilpatrick Townsend"

Though the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard has received the most attention, OSHA also recently published COVID-19 guidance directed at employers who are not covered by the COVID-19 ETS. The updated guidance urges employers to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and take steps to protect unvaccinated and at-risk workers. (“At-risk” workers include individuals who have medical conditions that may impact their ability to develop a full immune response to vaccination, such as a prior transplant or prolonged use of immunosuppressant medications.) This updated guidance is particularly relevant in industries where prolonged close contact with customers or other employees is common, such as meat and seafood processing, manufacturing, grocery, and high-volume retail.

OSHA’s recommendations include:

  • Maintaining physical distancing for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in all communal work areas.
  • Providing unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk employers with face coverings or surgical masks, unless their work task requires a respirator or other personal protective equipment.
  • Suggesting that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings.
  • Staggering worker break times, arrival times, and departure times to avoid groups of unvaccinated or at-risk workers congregating in communal areas.

The updated guidance, including additional measures to mitigate COVID-19 exposure in higher risk workplaces with employees of varying vaccination status, is accessible at https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework.