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What Grocers Need To Know About OSHA COVID Policies

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By Jim Dudlicek/ NGA director of communications and external affairs

Though expected to be more sweeping, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) recent emergency standard for COVID workplace safety is directed only at healthcare workers. But that doesn’t mean grocery stores should be letting their guard down.

To be sure, consumers are coming out of the pandemic with an enhanced awareness of and demand for safety in retail environments. NGA recently hosted a webinar, presented by Eric Conn, founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey and chair of the law firm’s national OSHA Workplace Safety Practice Group, to advise grocers on what they need to know, what policies they should have in place regarding masking and vaccinations, and answer questions about compliance.

Here are some key takeaways from the presentation:

When does the ETS apply to non-healthcare facilities? In general, the new emergency temporary standard (ETS) only applies to healthcare settings. But even as a retailer, you may be subject to the ETS in these situations: retail pharmacy (for certain services), walk-in clinic in a retail setting, medical clinic in a manufacturing facility and non-hospital ambulatory care offices. ETS applies only to the “embedded healthcare setting” and not to the remainder of the physical location.

BUT … these locations may be excluded based on one or more of these exemptions: pharmacy in a grocery store that only dispenses medications (no COVID-19 testing or vaccinations administered); non-hospital outpatient settings where non-employees are screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases are not permitted to enter; dental office or on-site medical clinic at a manufacturing site where patients are asked about symptoms, and suspected COVID cases may not enter; or first aid administered by an employee who is not a licensed healthcare provider.

If you do not qualify for exemption from the ETS, you’re subject to certain mandates, including the following: workplace-specific COVID-19 hazard assessment; written COVID-19 prevention plan; designated workplace COVID-19 safety coordinator; patient screening and management; CDC-recommended standard and transmission-based precautions; PPE; physical distancing and barriers; cleaning and disinfection; ventilation; health screening; vaccination; training; COVID-19 tracking log to include all employee cases, regardless of work-relatedness; and reporting of COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA, regardless how long after the exposure they occur.

OSHA also released updated COVID-19 guidance for all employers not covered by the ETS, to help ensure employers continue to protect non-vaccinated workers in non-healthcare settings. It’s not a mandatory standard, but OSHA has been exercising enforcement authority under its general duty clause. This updated guidance focuses on protecting non-vaccinated and other at-risk workers, creates incentives to encourage vaccination and shares links to up-to-date CDC and other industry guidance.

Suggested actions for all workplaces include providing paid time off for employees to get vaccinated, implementing physical distancing for unvaccinated workers, providing unvaccinated or other at-risk workers with face coverings, suggesting unvaccinated shoppers wear face coverings and performing routine cleaning and disinfection.

For additional resources, including blogs and a webinar series, visit connmaciel.com.

To view this complete webinar, click the following link: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6623159394579338754.

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