As the pandemic comes to an end, healthcare companies are wondering how they will continue to work in an environment where COVID is still a risk. OSHA published a COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on June 21, 2021, that implements a plan addressing the protocols for cleaning, social distancing, health screening, and vaccinations within healthcare entities.
As companies attempt to go back to normal, how will the ETS affect their employees’ daily lives and health?
Here is how the ETS will affect the daily lives of healthcare workers.
A COVID-19 Plan
Covered employers are required to develop a COVID-19 plan for their workplace. If the employer has more than ten employees, they must put the plan in writing. The plan has many requirements, including designating COVID-19 safety coordinators, conducting hazard assessments, monitoring each workplace, and updating the plan as needed.
Patient Screening and Management
To ensure each workplace is keeping its employees and patients as safe as possible, the ETS requires that covered employers conduct patient screening and management in direct patient care settings. This involves taking steps such as limiting and monitoring points of entry into the building, screening and triaging all clients, patients, delivery people, and other non-employees entering the setting, and implementing other strategies that comply with the CDC’s “COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Recommendations.”
Physical Distancing and Barriers
While indoors, covered employers must be separated from all other people by six feet when feasible. In situations where this is unfeasible, they must try to stay as far apart as possible and implement physical barriers — “cleanable or disposable solid barriers” that block face-to-face pathways between individuals — at a fixed location, such as front desks and counters.
Employers are in charge of evaluating and determining the best possible solutions for social distancing and physical barriers.
Health Screening and Vaccinations
Although most healthcare workers will be getting their COVID-19 vaccine, if they haven’t already done so, daily health screening is required for all employees. The screening can be completed by self-monitoring oneself for COVID-19 symptoms. If an employee suspects themself to have COVID-19, have tested positive for it, or have been told by a healthcare professional that they may have it, they are required to report it to their employer. If someone does test positive, the employer must notify all other persons who were present during the transmission period and remove the employee from the workplace.
The ETS provides a continuation of pay and benefits for isolated employees in the event of removal from the workplace. Additionally, employers must provide paid time off as they are being vaccinated and possibly experiencing vaccination side effects.
ClearStar and Medical Screening
The ADA requires that any mandatory medical test of employees be “job-related and consistent with business necessity,” including in the event of a COVID-19 test. If an employer determines that an employee poses a risk of exposure to or the spreading of COVID-19, they may require them to take a COVID-19 test before returning to work. Employers may also screen job applicants for symptoms of COVID-19, as long as they are doing so for every other person entering the same job. As long as they are accommodating to the provisions of Title VII and the ADA, employers may also require their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
If an employer wants to test an employee for COVID, ClearStar provides a CRL Rapid Response™ kit — a saliva-based molecular diagnostic test — to determine whether the virus is active or not. The results are available within 24-48 hours, on average. Keep in mind that all COVID-19 screening results must be kept confidential.
To place an order for a COVID-19 test, contact the ClearStar Medical Information Services office at 321.821.3383 or [email protected]. To ask about background checks and other medical screening services, call +1.877.796.2559.
To read more about the specifics of OSHA’s ETS, go to https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets.