- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is moving ahead with a permanent standard to protect healthcare workers from exposure to COVID-19 on the job. The agency submitted a final rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and Office of Management and Budget for review on Thursday.
- OSHA implemented a temporary emergency standard for medical facilities in June 2021, mandating those sites follow requirements around ventilation, physical barriers and other protections to reduce virus transmission.
- The agency then withdrew the rule last December, saying it was working toward a permanent regulatory solution while considering broader infectious disease rulemaking.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, labor unions have pushed for greater protections for healthcare workers — especially concerning adequate personal protective equipment, or PPE, and measures to protect workers from viral transmission.
The rule OSHA submitted Thursday is under review and details haven’t yet been made public.
National Nurses United, the country’s largest nursing union, wants the rule to include terms around screening and testing of patients, visitors and staff, measures ensuring optimal PPE, exposure notifications for healthcare workers and paid leave for those exposed or infected with COVID-19, according to a release.
“Protecting nurses and other health care workers is of paramount importance as we face an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, in addition to high and increasing influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) hospitalizations,” Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, said in a release.
Alongside other unions, NNU petitioned an appellate court in January to compel OSHA to codify a permanent standard on occupational exposure after the temporary rule was withdrawn.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that it lacked the authority to force the agency to make certain rules, effectively leaving discretion up to OSHA.
Provider groups including the American Hospital Association originally pushed back at the emergency standard, saying the rule was long and complex with a quick compliance date and short comment period.