The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) yesterday issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) with new enforceable requirements for employers to protect workers from COVID-19. But the new standard, which goes into effect immediately, will apply only to workers in healthcare settings.
OSHA also released additional guidance for all industries on keeping workers safe from the coronavirus, but it is not enforceable and mostly aligns with current public guidance from the CDC.
NAHB and its partners in the Construction Industry Safety Coalition (CISC) worked with OSHA for months to ensure the views of the construction industry were included in consideration of the ETS.
“The Construction Industry Safety Coalition is pleased that the Biden administration and OSHA listened to the concerns and recommendations of the construction industry in formulating a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard,” the coalition said in a statement. “OSHA made the right decision to issue an ETS to cover tasks associated with high exposure risk levels and not construction operations, which are generally low risk.”
“We appreciate OSHA staff taking our input seriously,” said NAHB CEO Jerry Howard. “It shows the value of NAHB in building relationships with policymakers and the influence the Federation has on matters of critical importance to home builders.”
The additional guidance issued by OSHA identifies unvaccinated workers in any setting as potentially “high-risk.” OSHA said that employers should take additional steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers in workplaces where there is heightened risk due to factors like close contact or prolonged exposure in closed spaces, neither of which typically apply in home building.
OSHA recommends additional steps such as staggered break times, visual cues to encourage physical distancing, and improved ventilation for workers in heightened-risk environments.
Workplace safety and health are top priorities for NAHB. At the outset of the pandemic, NAHB and CISC developed an industry-wide COVID-19 Exposure Prevention Preparedness and Response Plan to provide a comprehensive approach to keeping construction workers, deemed to be essential, safe.
NAHB will continue to closely monitor guidance from all federal agencies, including OSHA and the CDC, on COVID-19 mitigation. NAHB staff is in contact with agency staff daily and takes OSHA’s ETS as a positive sign that the administration is listening to home builders.