man wearing medical mask and looking out a window

It is in home care’s best interest to adhere to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s temporary standard related to COVID-19, an expert on the standard said Thursday.

“To have compliance with the standard is not only going to help us with the moment, but it’s going to help us down the road, especially with the long-haulers,” said Barbara Citarella, RN, a subject matter expert with RBC Limited Healthcare and Management Consultants, during a National Association for Home Care & Hospice webinar.

The standard, which was released in June, provides extensive rules regarding protecting healthcare workers where they might be exposed to COVID-10. These rules include everything regarding standard patient contact protocols, such a wearing personal protective equipment and ensuring proper ventilation, to creating workplace plans.

Historic standard

The rule represents the first time in OSHA’s 50-year history that the agency has promulgated an emergency temporary standard, Citarella noted. It is also unique in that it incorporates four other OSHA standards: Bloodborne Pathogens, Respiratory Protection Program, OSHA: COVID-19 in the Workplace, and the Sanitation Standard.

“It’s really a very comprehensive, complex standard that integrates with all these other standards OSHA has in place,” Citarella said.

Citarella and Mary Carr, RN, vice president of regulatory affairs from NAHC, who also spoke on the webinar, noted that they have worked to understand and dissect the standard since it was released in June.

What is clear, they said, is that all areas of home care, be it personalized care or home health, positions are part of the standard.

“It doesn’t matter if all you do is paraprofessional services; everyone is included in this that provides home care,” Citarella said.

Only two services are not covered by the standard: housekeeping and homemaking. But some clarification from OSHA on the latter is still necessary, Carr noted.

One reason the rule includes home care, Citarella pointed out, is because early on in the pandemic, home care struggled to staff employees with N-95 masks and did not perform initial fit testing of the masks.

“This is an area we have been stuck on in home care,” she said.

Vaccination exemption

One exemption from the rule is if 100% of a home care organization’s employees are vaccinated. This condition is a bit hard to meet, as employees include everyone from full-time to contracted and others, and it requires documentation, Citarella said.

OSHA is not mandating 100% vaccination but rather encouraging it. Recently, President Biden tasked OSHA with creating a standard for his recent federal vaccination mandate. This likely will come out in October, Carr said.

This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living