Liza Berger headshot
Liza Berger

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday released a long-awaited emergency rule that establishes workplace safety guidelines for employers in the healthcare setting, including home health, for the pandemic’s duration. With this rule, the feds are taking a carrot-and-stick approach toward encouraging vaccinations.   

To see what I mean it might be helpful to break down the rule a bit more. The stick, to start, in general terms: 

Facemasks: The employer must ensure each employee wears a facemask indoors and when occupying a vehicle with other people for work purposes. 

Physical distancing: People must be at least 6 feet apart when indoors.

COVID-19 plan: The employer must develop and implement a COVID-19 plan for each workplace. As part of this plan, the employer must conduct a workplace-specific hazard assessment to identify potential workplace hazards related to COVID-19.

Patient screening: The employer must screen and triage all clients, patients, residents, delivery people and other visitors, and other non-employees entering the setting. 

There are additional important aspects of the rule. Among them, employers must provide workers with paid time off to get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects. Covered employees who have coronavirus or who may be contagious must work remotely or otherwise be separated from other workers if possible, or be given paid time off up to $1400 per week.

Now here is the carrot: 

Exempted from the rule are home healthcare settings where all employees are fully vaccinated and all non-employees are screened prior to entry and people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not present.

To me, this seems to provide a no-brainer course of action for home health agencies. That is to encourage, implore and, if necessary, incentivize vaccinations among staff. In other words, they need to do whatever they have to do to get staff vaccinated. Not only do vaccinations protect the employer from possible punitive action from OSHA, it lifts the burden of burdensome compliance off of workers. 

How about this as a slogan? Get vaccinated, folks. It will just make life easier for everyone.

Liza Berger is editor of McKnight’s Home Care. Follow her @LizaBerger19 and email her at [email protected]