Updated OSHA Guidance for Employers in Areas with High Community Transmission of COVID

SLMA News ,

From SLMA's OSHA Counsel at Kilpatrick Townsend: 

On August 13, 2021, OSHA published guidance aligning with recent CDC recommendations encouraging fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public indoor settings if they are in an area with substantial or high community transmission of COVID. OSHA urgers employers to implement the following interventions to protect unvaccinated and other at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID: 

  • Face Coverings: Regardless of the level of community transmission, fully vaccinated workers should be free to wear face coverings in public indoor settings, especially if they are at risk or have someone in their household who is at risk or not fully vaccinated. At a minimum, OSHA recommends that fully vaccinated workers wear masks in public indoor settings in areas with substantial or high transmission. 
  • Vaccinations: OSHA encourages employers to facilitate vaccinations for their employees. This may take the form of policies that require workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing - in addition to mask wearing and physical distancing - if they remain unvaccinated. 
  • Known Exposure to COVID: OSHA recommends that fully-vaccinated workers who have known exposure to someone with confirmed COVID-19 should get tested 3-5 days after the exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result. Workers who are not fully vaccinated should be tested immediately after being identified, and if negative, tested again in 5-7 days after the last exposure or immediately if they develop symptoms during quarantine. 

OSHA also recommends the following measures to protect unvaccinated and other at-risk workers in manufacturing settings:

  • Ensure adequate ventilation in the facility, or if feasible, move work outdoors. 
  • Space such workers out, ideally 6 feet apart, and ensure that such workers are not working directly across from one another. Barriers are not a replacement for worker use of face coverings and physical distancing. 
  • If barriers are used where physical distancing cannot be maintained, they should be made of a solid, impermeable material, like plastic or acrylic, that can be easily cleaned and replaced. Barriers should block face-to-face pathways and should not flag or otherwise move out of position when they are being used. 
  • Barriers do not replace the need for physical distancing - at least 6 feet of separation should be maintained between unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk individuals whenever possible. 

Additional information reagrding the updated OSHA guidance is available at https:www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework.