Guidance and Considerations for Masks on Campus: Students and Employees

On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety. On January 29th, OSHA issued new comprehensive guidance. (See OSHA’s COVID-19 guidance here)

This recent guidance is intended to inform employers and workers outside of the healthcare industry and to assist them in determining up-to-date and appropriate control measures to implement. The guidance encourages employers to create and adhere to a COVID-19 Prevention Program and include the following key elements: conducting a hazard assessment; identifying a combination of measures that limit COVID-19 spread; adopting measures to ensure that workers who are sick are separated and sent home; and implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 related concerns. The guidance recommends that employers provide all workers with face coverings at no cost. OSHA also notes that, in order to keep employees safe, it is critical that employers monitor compliance with workplace guidelines.

Colleges and universities have the added complexity of serving as employers as well as places for students to learn in a variety of environments – classrooms, labs, studios, etc. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than a quarter of colleges offered in-person learning this spring (Link) and even more are planning in-person learning in the Fall (Link). With more students, and thus more employees, on campus, it is critical that institutions consider the benefits and risks of in-person learning and plan accordingly.

Institutions would be well-advised to review OSHA’s guidance and update their policies and practices. Colleges should also be mindful of their own prevention plans as well as their campus enforcement and violation mechanisms.

Finally, the CDC publishes several continually updated resources for institutions of higher education at the following links. Duane Morris will continue to monitor these links and update our blogs and alerts accordingly.

  • Toolkit for Colleges and Universities – Link (Updated: 1/14/21)
  • Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education – Link (Updated: 12/31/20)
  • Testing, Screening, and Outbreak Response for Institutions of Higher Education – Link (Updated: 12/16/20)
  • Interim Guidance for Case Investigation and Contact Tracing in Institutions of Higher Education – Link (Updated: 10/21/20)

For more information please contact, Jonathan Helwink, Katherine D. Brodie, any of the attorneys in the Higher Education Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

This Post has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm’s full disclaimer.