OSHA Emergency Rule Update
Oregon OSHA issued revised OSHA rules on June 28 intended to reflect the Governor’s latest Executive Order lifting COVID-19 restrictions. The rules retain many existing requirements for health care providers, including but not limited to, six feet distancing, screening of individuals entering the building, enhanced sanitation and ventilation and infection control protocols. The new rules, however, reduce the mask requirement, requiring use of a mask, face covering, or face shield only when an individual is working inside where six feet of distance between employees and other individuals cannot be consistently maintained or when the employee shares a room with one or more other individuals and the total enclosed area of the room does not provide at least 100 square feet per person. In practice, this lessened requirement will still require masking during direct resident care because six feet distance cannot be maintained, but other settings may allow for removal of masks. See the discussion below, however, for more information on masking requirements.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) to address exposure to COVID-19 to workers in health care settings. These standards apply to skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, and Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled (ID/DD). It does not appear that in-home care agencies are included.
Many of the requirements in these federal rules parallel state law. Regarding masking, however, the federal law retains the requirement that a facemask be worn by each employee when indoors and when occupying a vehicle with other people for work purposes. There are several exceptions to this rule, including most relevantly, when the employee is alone in a room, when eating or drinking and social distancing is practiced, when it is important that the employee’s mouth be seen or because of medical necessity or hazard to the employee. As the stricter requirement, providers should adhere to the federal masking requirement.
Employers must comply with most of these standards by July 6, 2021. The rules provide for an extended compliance date of July 21, 2021 for requirements related to physical barriers, ventilation, and training.
In addition, a webinar reviewing the ETS and the implications for AHCA/NCAL members is available.
As noted, many of these ETS standards are already required by Oregon OSHA regulations, CDC, CMS, or other public health guidance. AHCA/NCAL recommends that providers start by:
- Identifying a COVID-19 site safety coordinator and downloading the COVID-19 plan template.
- Providers should use OSHA’s COVID-19 Healthcare Worksite Checklist & Employee Job Hazard Analysis to identify what is already in place in their facility and plan and prioritize implementing what is not.
Federal OSHA has many resources on their ETS website to help employers meet these standards.
Federal OSHA also offers an On-Site Consultation Program as does Oregon OSHA. This free and confidential consultation program provides occupational safety and health services to small-and medium-sized businesses. Consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Resources are also available on the AHCA/NCAL website.
AHCA/NCAL encourages providers to document efforts of implementation and monitoring. This can be shared with an OSHA inspector if an onsite visit occurs to show what is in place, what’s in progress, and the overall good faith efforts to meet the standards. For additional assistance with the new federal rules, providers can check out the OSHA ETS FAQs.
Existing and Temporary OSHA Rules
OHCA has created a detailed document to help members understand where the new OSHA rules fit in with current regulations for long term care providers and in-home care agencies.
Please review the following detailed documents that compare existing regulation of infection control in long term care and the new OSHA rules:
- Self-Inspection Checklist for Facilities on Infection Control
- Cintas Respiratory Training Slick
- U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA Announces $1,222,156 In Coronavirus Violations, October 16, 2020