As we previously reported, on December 21, 2021, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration allowed its COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (“Healthcare ETS”) to expire. While many employers may have breathed a sigh of relief, covered employers in North Carolina are still required to comply with the standard. The North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL) adopted the Healthcare ETS as a permanent rule on July 21, 2021. This means the standard will stay in place until the NCDOL takes affirmative steps to repeal it. NCDOL recently announced that “[b]ased on current COVID-19 trends in North Carolina . . . [its] rule will remain in effect through at least February 28, 2022.” After that, NCDOL “will evaluate current COVID-19 trends on a monthly basis to determine when the rule is no longer necessary.”
As a reminder, the Healthcare ETS applies to worksites where any employee provides health care services or health care support services. Covered employers are required to implement a number of procedures, including, but not limited to, adoption of a COVID-19 plan, patient and employee screening and management, PPE, training, and recordkeeping. Of particular note, covered employers are required to provide employees with paid leave if they are required to be removed from the workplace due to COVID-19. Importantly, there are exceptions to the rule. For example, non-hospital ambulatory care settings (like physician offices and urgent care centers) are exempt so long as all non-employees are screened prior to entry and those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are excluded. Likewise exempted are home health care settings where all employees are fully vaccinated and non-employees are screened for COVID-19. The ETS does not include mandatory vaccinations of employees.