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OSHA Updates Guidance for Employers on COVID-19 Control Measures

    Client Alerts
  • August 19, 2021

Last Friday, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued updated guidance for employers on best practices for avoiding workplace spread of the COVID-19 virus. It incorporates revised CDC guidelines developed in the wake of the Delta variant’s spread and how that impacts the risks of infection for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. It is intended for use by employers outside the coverage of OSHA’s emergency temporary standard applicable to health care employers.

As with most federal COVID-19 guidance, the new OSHA information draws distinctions between vaccinated and unvaccinated employees. For unvaccinated people, OSHA recommends the standard list of preventative measures, including masks and social distancing. The agency recommends use of masks indoors by all people regardless of vaccination status in areas of high community spread. While all people experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should stay out of work, unvaccinated employees who have had close contact with an infected person need to quarantine regardless of whether they have experienced such symptoms.

Fully vaccinated employees do not need to quarantine following a close contact but should be tested three to five days later. The OSHA guidance contains additional recommendations for high-risk industries such as meatpacking, transportation, and retail. While the guidance cannot be used as the sole basis to support OSHA citations, it does reflect current best industry practices. Employers that flagrantly ignore these measures could be subject to employee complaints and follow-up OSHA inspections to determine if they have exposed workers to an unreasonable risk of death or illness.