OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Guidance for Employers

The agency urges employers to provide paid time off for vaccinations and face masks for unvaccinated or at-risk staff.

June 11, 2021

Stack of Face Masks

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its long-awaited Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 for health-care settings yesterday and released guidance applicable to other workplaces—including, for example, the convenience industry.

One of President Biden’s myriad executive orders signed during his first days in office required OSHA to decide whether an ETS aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in workplaces was necessary. After reporting it did believe one was necessary on May 3, OSHA submitted a draft to the Office of Management and Budget for interagency review, one of the final steps before a federal regulation is released.

Following the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s announcement on May 13 indicating that, in most cases, fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to wear masks, OSHA announced that it would take another look at the draft ETS.

No new requirements on general retail establishments are included in the ETS released yesterday. The ETS only sets requirements for those in health-care settings or whose businesses are in close contact with health-care settings.

At the same time, OSHA updated its guidance for non-health-care settings. While not requirements, the guidance applies to the convenience retailing industry, and OSHA will have retailers in mind when reviewing workplaces across the country.

Highlights of the guidance are:

  1. In an effort to get as many workers as possible vaccinated, employers should offer paid time off for vaccination appointments and recovery from possible side effects.
  2. Workers who have been infected, are showing symptoms, or are unvaccinated and have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should stay home from work.
  3. Physical distancing for any unvaccinated employees and those who may be at higher risk should be implemented or maintained.
  4. Employers should provide unvaccinated or at-risk employees with face covering or surgical masks.
  5. Education and training on COVID-19 policies should be conducted using accessible formats and in language employees understand.
  6. Unvaccinated customers, visitors or guests should be encouraged to wear masks.
  7. Routine cleaning and disinfection should be conducted. If someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 has been in a business within 24 hours, then the business should follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

NACS encourages convenience retailers to review the full set of guidance recommendations and implement those that they feel make the most sense in an effort to continue to keep their customers and employees safe and healthy.

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis, including information about how to educate employees about the vaccines and other vaccine-related human resources advice. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.