On June 21, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”) to address a number of enhanced standards designed to protect employees in the workplace in response to the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. The new standards directly impact day-to-day operations for hospitals, medical office buildings and other healthcare facilities. Despite pushback from many groups including the American Hospital Association and the Association for American Medical Colleges requesting more time to understand and implement the policy and its new requirements, the standards went into effect on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. The comment period, however, was extended to August 20, 2021.
All employers providing healthcare services are required to comply with the new requirements. Also as a part of the new standards, outpatient facilities are now held to the same standards as inpatient facilities. Required action items include the addition of physical barriers in spaces where employees cannot remain distanced from others by a minimum of 6 ft., enhanced cleaning and disinfection, and improved ventilation. Given the various requirements and tight timelines for compliance, healthcare facility and property managers must proactively evaluate their specific circumstances and facility impacts to avoid penalties for non-compliance.
RTG published a COVID-19 briefing, “Summary of OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards Subpart U” that summarizes several key takeaways and immediate considerations for the environment of care and healthcare facility and property management teams. As expected, OSHA will continue to monitor COVID-19 trends and will update ETS as needed if new information leads to the need for expanded measures or the risk for infection decreases.
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