On June 21, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published its first COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to address the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. This mandatory standard applies only to the healthcare sector, but OSHA also released non-mandatory guidance for other industries.
Workplaces covered by the ETS
The ETS applies to healthcare organizations that provide direct patient care. Within the healthcare sector, the ETS allows limited exemptions for some specific healthcare organizations and ancillary health services as long as other COVID related safety measures are in place.
A healthcare organization may be exempt from the ETS if the following applies:
- The workplace is not a hospital and provides only ambulatory patient services.
- The workplace is a home healthcare setting where all employees are fully vaccinated and no one with symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 is present.
- The workplace provides telehealth services in a setting where direct patient care is not being administered.
- The workplace is a retail pharmacy.
- All non-employees are screened for COVID-19 symptoms and denied entry if they show symptoms or have a confirmed case of COVID-19.
- All employees are fully vaccinated and work in a well-defined area where no one with symptoms or confirmed COVID-19 is present. (The organization must have a procedure in place to verify vaccination status.)
If direct patient care is conducted within a space shared with a non-healthcare organization, the ETS only applies to the area occupied by the healthcare organization and only to employees and visitors of the healthcare organization. An example of this situation would be a walk-in clinic located inside a larger retail space. Note that within the larger space, the area where direct patient care is conducted must be well-defined and separate.
Requirements included in the ETS
Many of OSHA’s COVID-19 Healthcare ETS requirements have been in practice in healthcare organizations since the start of the pandemic. Most employees and the public have come to expect these precautions in healthcare settings:
- Screening of employees and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms
- Face masks for employees and visitors
- Gloves for employees providing direct patient care
- Physical distancing
- Solid barriers where 6-foot distancing is not possible
- Cleaning and disinfection of surfaces per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Increased ventilation in the workplace
- Respirators, isolation gowns, gloves and eye protection for healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients
Protections for healthcare workers under the ETS
The ETS also provides some additional protections related to COVID-19 for healthcare workers. It prohibits employers from discriminating, retaliating or dismissing employees for exercising their rights or requirements under the ETS. Employers must provide:
- Free COVID-related personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Free cleaning and disinfecting agents
- Employer-specific, COVID-related training on policies and procedures
- Free testing for employees suspected of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace
- Notification within 24 hours to any employee exposed to a confirmed COVID case in the workplace
- Continued pay and benefits during the COVID-19 quarantine period
- Reasonable time off with pay for the employee to receive a COVID-19 vaccination or recover from vaccination side effects
Effect of the ETS on demand for PPE
Since most of the ETS requirements regarding PPE have already been established as best practices, it is unlikely that the ETS alone will cause an increase in demand for PPE. However, healthcare organizations will continue to seek high-quality PPE products from reliable sources, especially as localized surges of COVID-19 cases and ongoing COVID-19 vaccination campaigns increase PPE consumption.
The Ventyv® Solution for your PPE needs
Disposable gloves are a critical asset in infection prevention for any healthcare organization and demand is unlikely to slow anytime soon. Ventyv is a dependable partner who can fulfill your orders with what you need, when you need it. Our wide variety of high-quality latex and nitrile powder-free products includes everything from general purpose to strong barrier protection for use in clinical settings.
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