August 19, 2021

Updated OSHA Guidance for COVID-19 Aims to Protect Unvaccinated, At-Risk Workers

Updated guidance issued by OSHA on Friday focuses on helping employers protect unvaccinated and other at-risk workers from the coronavirus. According to the agency, the changes to its guidance are intended to reflect updated recommendations for fully vaccinated people related to masks and testing published by CDC on July 27. CDC currently recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission and be tested three to five days after exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Similarly, OSHA’s latest guidance recommends that fully vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks to protect unvaccinated workers. The agency also recommends that fully vaccinated workers wear masks for up to 14 days following close contact with someone infected with SARS-CoV-2 unless the workers test negative for the coronavirus at least three to five days after such contact.

The updated OSHA guidance further describes measures for protecting those in higher-risk workplaces where workers have prolonged close contact with others and where workers’ vaccination status varies. Higher-risk industries include manufacturing; meat, seafood, and poultry processing; high-volume retail and grocery; and agricultural processing.

“Vaccination is the optimal step to protect workers,” OSHA states in its press release announcing the updated guidance. But employers should also “implement multi-layered approaches to protect unvaccinated or otherwise at-risk workers from the coronavirus.”

OSHA also provided a separate update regarding its COVID-19 emergency temporary standard for healthcare settings. According to the agency, it monitors and assesses the need for changes to the ETS each month. Following review of the latest guidance, science, and data, OSHA says the requirements of the ETS “remain necessary to address the grave danger of the coronavirus in healthcare.”

For further details, see OSHA’s press release and updated guidance.