OSHA recently updated their COVID-19 guidance, primarily affecting industries, such as manufacturing, meat, seafood and poultry processing, high volume retail and grocery, and agricultural processing, where there is often prolonged close contact with other workers and/or customers.
“Employers who do not comply with these guidelines and experience high workforce transmission may risk exposures per the general duty clause, which states employers must provide a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm,” said Vik Ramaswamy, Senior Risk Control Manager at Safety National. “So, while OSHA categorizes these updates as recommendations rather than a regulatory standard (aside from healthcare), treating them as a standard practice may reduce overall exposures.”
New Employer Recommendations
OSHA’s updated guidance was expanded to protect employees in higher-risk workplaces with mixed-vaccination status workers. This applies to certain industries in which employees are forced to occupy confined workstations. To prioritize their safety, these new guidelines reflect recent developments in science and data, including the CDC’s updated COVID-19 guidance.
- Recommends that fully-vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission wear masks to protect unvaccinated workers.
- Recommends that fully vaccinated workers who have been in close contact with COVID-infected individuals wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative coronavirus test at least 3-5 days after contact.
- Clarifies recommendations to protect unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in manufacturing, meat, poultry, seafood and agricultural processing.
- Links to the latest guidance on K-12 schools and CDC statements on public transit.
FDA Approval of Pfizer Vaccine
With the full FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, employers can now mandate the vaccine for workers. Previously, under the FDA’s emergency use authorization, employers were concerned about facing potential litigation over vaccine mandates, despite these lawsuits failing to gain much traction. With OSHA continuing to emphasize that vaccines are the optimal step to protect employees, a vaccine mandate may be welcome news for employers committed to prioritizing the safety and health of their workforce.
To view OSHA’s new guidance in full, click here.
To view the FDA’s full approval and continued safety monitoring, click here.