On August 13, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released new workplace guidelines. The new guidance focuses exclusively on unvaccinated or "otherwise at-risk workers." It also covers fully vaccinated personnel in “areas of substantial or high community transmission” as defined by the CDC. OSHA guidance, unlike legally recognized OSHA rules, is advisory only and has no legal authority. Though, we encourage companies to adopt OSHA's COVID-19 guidance to the fullest extent possible because all employers subject to the OSH Act are bound by its General Duty Clause.

1. Workers who are unvaccinated or who are “otherwise at risk.”

The revised guidance also includes the following information for workers:

  • COVID-19 vaccination should be taken as soon as possible. If necessary, talk with your employer about paid time off to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects.

  • Cover your nose and mouth properly with a face covering. They work to keep your respiratory droplets or big particles from getting into the hands of others. Individuals should purchase higher-quality masks to ensure a higher level of protection for themselves and those around them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers general guidance regarding masks, including face coverings.

  • If you work outdoors, you may choose not to wear a face covering in many situations; but, your employer should support you in wearing a face covering if you choose to do so, especially if you work closely with others.

  • Stay at least 6 feet (approximately 2 arm lengths) away from other people unless you are vaccinated and not otherwise at risk. Though this method alone is not a guarantee that you will not become infected, particularly in enclosed or poorly ventilated areas. Talk with your supervisor about telework and flexible schedule possibilities, and take use of them if they are available. When possible, complete work assignments, attend meetings, and take breaks outside.

  • Participate in any training provided by your employer/site manager to gain knowledge on how to effectively ventilate rooms. Encourage your employer to provide such training if it does not already exist, and notify the site manager if you find vents that are clogged, dirty, or any other maintenance activities that are required in the workplace. It is important for the employer/ site manager to schedule maintenance management tasks beforehand so that the employees can be aware of that.

  • Wash your hands frequently and maintain proper personal hygiene. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow when coughing or sneezing, and never spit. Stay updated on your health on a daily basis and be sure to look for COVID-19 symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, or shortness of breath). 

  • Get tested on a regular basis, especially in areas of substantial or high community transmission.

2. Workers who have been vaccinated in “areas of substantial or high community transmission”

For vaccinated workers, OSHA outlines the CDC guidance as follows:

  • Consider wearing mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission;

  • Regardless of the level of transmission, people should wear a mask, especially if they are at risk or have someone in their family who is at risk of severe sickness or is not totally vaccinated; and

  • Get tested 3-5 days after a known COVID-19 exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days after exposure or until a negative test result.


The most important thing is, of course, the use of masks in the workplace, even for vaccinated staff. This is merely a suggestion, not a requirement, in states where no emergency orders are still in effect. Based on DHHS standards, Maine has mandated healthcare professionals. Employers may, of course, require masks as part of an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan, which many did until recently.



OSHA suggests that employers should continue to apply a layered strategy to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in the workplace. Employers may need to update policies and procedures for any potential COVID-19 exposure to employees, as well as prepare an infectious disease strategy, in light of OSHA's new recommendations. Staying informed and not overreacting to every piece of good or bad news will be crucial if you want to maintain as much consistency as possible in your approach to protecting your workers and maintaining workplace safety.