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What Independent Schools Should Know About OSHA’s New COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard
After determining that existing federal standards and regulations are inadequate to address COVID-19 issues for healthcare workers, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) implemented a new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring covered employers to take actions to minimize the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Are Schools Covered Under the ETS?
The ETS applies to “all settings where any employee provides healthcare or healthcare support services.” (See OSHA’s ETS Fact Sheet.) Healthcare services include “services that are provided to individuals by professional healthcare practitioners for the purpose of promoting, maintaining, monitoring, or restoring health.”
Therefore, independent schools that have a health clinic, healthcare facility, nurse’s office, or other area that provides healthcare or healthcare support services as part of its operations should be mindful of the ETS’s requirements.
What is Required Under the ETS?
Under the ETS, employers are required to develop and implement a written COVID-19 plan that includes the following:
- A designated workplace COVID-19 safety coordinator who is knowledgeable in infection control principles and practices to implement and monitor the COVID-19 plan;
- Potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19;
- Policies and procedures to determine employees’ vaccination status;
- Policies and procedures to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 for each employee.
Notably, the ETS also requires that employers seek the input and involvement of non-managerial employees (and their representatives, if any) in the hazard assessment and the development and implementation of the COVID-19 plan. Employers must also monitor their workplace to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the COVID-19 plan and update it as needed.
Additionally, the ETS requires employers to develop and implement policies and procedures that adhere to the Standard and Transmission-Based Precautions in accordance with CDC’s “Guidelines for Isolation Precautions.” Some of the key requirements of the ETS include:
- Limiting and monitoring points of entry to settings where direct care is provided; screening and triaging patients, clients, and other visitors and non-employees, and implementing patient management strategies;
- Developing and implementing policies and procedures to adhere to Standard and Transmission-Based precautions based on CDC guidelines;
- Providing personal protective equipment and ensuring employees wear a facemask indoors and when occupying a vehicle with other people for work purposes (with limited exceptions);
- Installing physical barriers at each fixed work location in non-patient care areas where employees are not separated from other people by at least 6 feet;
- Following standard practices for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and equipment in accordance with CDC guidelines;
- Assessing existing HVAC systems;
- Screening employees;
- Providing reasonable time and paid leave for vaccinations and vaccine side effects;
- Ensuring all employees receive training on COVID-19 and informing employees of their rights under the ETS; and
- Establishing a COVID-19 log of all employee instances with COVID-19.
What are the Exceptions to the ETS?
The ETS does not apply to all locations at school. The ETS specifically notes that it applies only to the embedded healthcare setting and not to the reminder of the physical location. This means that at most schools, the ETS would only apply to the nurse’s office or the health office.
Additionally, the ETS does not apply to non-hospital ambulatory care settings (such as the school nurse’s office or the health office), where all non-employees are screened prior to entry and people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not permitted to enter those settings. Therefore, if your school carefully screens all non-employees, such as students, parents, and visitors, prior to entering the school’s healthcare setting, and does not permit individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to enter, then your school may be exempt from the ETS’s requirements.
Next Steps for Schools
In light of OSHA’s ETS, schools that provide healthcare services should contact their legal counsel to determine whether they are subject to the ETS, and if so, whether they are in compliance.
For more information regarding OSHA’s ETS, visit: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets.
This Special Bulletin is published for the benefit of the clients of Liebert Cassidy Whitmore. The information in this Special Bulletin should not be acted upon without professional advice.