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OSHA recommends masks for many vaccinated workers

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Dive Brief:

  • Vaccinated workers in areas of substantial or high community transmission should wear masks to protect unvaccinated workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in guidance updated Aug. 13. 
  • Additionally, vaccinated workers who come into close contact with people with coronavirus should wear masks for up to 14 days unless they have a negative coronavirus test at least three to five days after the contact, according to OSHA.
  • The agency’s updated guidance also included recommendations for manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, seafood processing and agricultural processing employers.

Dive Insight:

The updates largely repeat what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest, but could have implications for employers now that those recommendations are coming from OSHA.

“While the updated guidance is advisory, rather than mandatory, in nature and creates no new legal obligations for employers, it does provide practical guidance for employers on how to satisfy their obligation under the OSHA general duty clause to provide a safe and healthy workplace free from recognized hazards,” attorneys for Proskauer wrote in a blog post. “Therefore, employers may wish to consult this guidance — along with other applicable federal, state and local guidance — when updating their COVID-19 re-entry and workplace health and safety policies.”

OSHA’s guidance may be particularly notable as the delta variant surges throughout the U.S. At press time, the CDC’s transmission map showed that most of the nation’s counties had “substantial” or “high” transmission, making them subject to OSHA’s recommendation.

For employers that choose to require masks, it’s crucial to devise a clear, written policy and enforce it consistently, an attorney previously told Construction Dive’s sister publication, HR Dive.

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