WASHINGTON – In the wake of many global food companies, including Tyson Foods Inc., announcing mandates that will require all workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment, the US Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new guidance designed to assist employers’ efforts to protect unvaccinated workers. The guidance has been updated to coincide with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance, which was issued July 27, and to apply current science and data. It specifically addresses workers employed in meat and poultry processing manufacturing as well as agricultural processing and grocery store employees, where working in close proximity with others is required.
While encouraging workers to get vaccinated and employers to support vaccinations, the guidance also promotes engagement between employers and employees to implement multiple interventions to protect unvaccinated and at-risk workers.
To protect unvaccinated employees, the new OSHA guidance recommended fully vaccinated workers wear masks in areas of high community transmission. It recommended that for those fully vaccinated people who have close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus to wear masks for up to 14 days after exposure unless they tested negative within three to five days after contact.
Additionally, the guidance provides:
• Clarification on recommendations to protect unvaccinated workers and other at-risk workers in manufacturing, meat and poultry processing, seafood processing and agricultural processing; and
• Links to the latest guidance on K-12 schools and CDC statements on public transit.
According to the DOL, “After reviewing the latest guidance, science and data, and consulting with the CDC and partners, OSHA has determined the requirements of the healthcare ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard) remain necessary to address the grave danger of the coronavirus in healthcare. OSHA will continue to monitor and assess the need for changes in the healthcare ETS each month.
“Our priority is the safety and health of workers, and we will continue to enforce the law to ensure workers are protected from the virus while they are on the job, including through OSHA’s National Emphasis Program on COVID.”