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What HME Providers Need To Know About The New OSHA Requirements

If you don’t have a COVID-19 plan or designated COVID-19 safety coordinators, the clock is ticking. According to OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard), employers have 14 to 30 days to comply with new standards, depending on the provision. 

As of Monday, June 21, 2021, OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS has appeared on the Federal Register website as an Interim Final Rule with request for comments.This ETS stems from an Executive Order signed by President Biden in January 2021 to protect worker health and safety, which directed OSHA to take action to reduce the risk for workers who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.

The language of the ETS contains several requirements that will be applicable to most settings where any employee provides healthcare services or healthcare support services, including DME suppliers and home health agencies. Some of the key requirements of the ETS are as follows:

  • The employer must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan for each workplace. If the employer has more than 10 employees, the COVID-19 plan must be written
  • The employer must designate one or more workplace COVID-19 safety coordinators to implement and monitor the COVID-19 plan
  • The employer must conduct a workplace-specific hazard assessment to identify potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19
  • In order for an employer to be exempt from providing controls based on employees’ fully vaccinated status, the COVID-19 plan must include policies and procedures to determine employees’ vaccination status
  • The employer must 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
  • The employer must monitor each workplace to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the COVID-19 plan and update it as needed
  • The COVID-19 plan must address the hazards identified by the assessment, and include policies and procedures to minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 for each employee and effectively communicate and coordinate with other employers when workspace is shared by multiple employers
  • The COVID-19 plan must contain provisions that protect employees who enter into private residences or other physical locations controlled by a person not covered by the OSH Act (e.g., homeowners, sole proprietors). This must include procedures for employee withdrawal from that location if those protections are inadequate
  • In settings where direct patient care is provided, the employer must: (1) Limit and monitor points of entry to the setting
  • PPE, physical barrier, cleaning/sanitizing, and social distancing protocols within the healthcare setting

There are several resources that will be of benefit to you as you review this ETS.

  1. Full ETS Language 
  2. ETS FAQs 
  3. ETS Summary Sheet
  4. Flowchart to help determine which ETS applies to your business
  5. Map of which states 1) are Federal OSHA states, 2) have state plans that cover only state/local government workplaces, or 3) have state plans that cover both state/local government as well as private workplaces: https://www.osha.gov/stateplans

As you can see when using the map linked above, the implementation of these regulations could vary from state to state. Employers with questions regarding this OSHA ETS are encouraged to reach out to their state’s OSHA office. You can find your local OSHA office here: https://www.osha.gov/contactus/bystate. The national phone # for OSHA is 800-321-6742.

According to the ETS summary sheet, “Employers must comply with most provisions within 14 days, and with provisions involving physical barriers, ventilation, and training within 30 days. OSHA will use its enforcement discretion for employers who are making a good faith effort to comply with the ETS.”