OSHA Updates Guidance on COVID-19 in the Workplace – Masking and Vaccines

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August 17, 2021

On August 13, 2021, OSHA updated Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace (Guidance) related to the COVID-19 vaccine and masking.

The Guidance now incorporates the new CDC recommendations including:

  • Wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission;
  • Choosing to wear a mask regardless of level of transmission, particularly if individuals are at risk or have someone in their household who is at increased risk of severe disease or not fully vaccinated; and
  • Getting tested three-five days following a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and wearing a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.

For an in-depth discussion about the CDC’s recommendation, see our previous article: BREAKING NEWS-CDC Now Recommends Masking Indoors for Certain Areas of Country and DOJ Clears Way for Employers to Mandate the Vaccine.

Regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, OSHA not only “encourages employers to take steps to make it easier for workers to get vaccinated and encourages workers to take advantage of those opportunities” but also “suggests that employers consider adopting policies that require workers to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing.”

As a reminder, this guidance is advisory for employers, however, employers may be at risk for OSHA citations under the General Duty Clause if reasonable efforts are not made to minimize COVID-19 in the workplace, including efforts in line with the recommendations in its Guidance.

This Guidance does not affect workers covered under OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for the healthcare sector. As of now the ETS has not been modified as discussed in our previous post: OSHA Responds to CDC’s Updated Mask Guidance – No Change to ETS … Yet.

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