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The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced this month that it will issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers from contracting the coronavirus. OSHA announced the new standard alongside new general industry guidance, which are consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The temporary standard establishes new requirements to protect workers facing the highest coronavirus hazards—those working in health care settings including skilled nursing homes, ambulatory care, and home healthcare, among other settings—where suspected or confirmed coronavirus patients are treated.
"This standard is necessary to give our healthcare workers deeply needed protections," said Jim Frederick, acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "This tailored standard allows OSHA to help the workers most in danger of contracting the virus, while the updated guidance will give other businesses across the country the information they need to help protect unvaccinated workers and continue mitigating spread in the workplace."
ASSP president and CEO Deborah Roy issued a response to the announcement, noting that ASSP supports efforts by OSHA that aim to safeguard healthcare workers across the country from the airborne spread of the virus.
"The emergency temporary standard is a necessary action that will help employers across the healthcare sector take vital measures to better protect some of our most vulnerable workers and ultimately save lives," Roy said. "While we are still analyzing the components of the standard, we know there are benefits to having a unified approach with requirements and guidance to lead healthcare facilities in the same direction to achieve safer and healthier work environments. The use of standards is an effective way to implement strong controls that improve occupational safety and health. We are immediately making ASSP members aware of this emergency temporary standard and are working to ensure that its application in healthcare settings is understood.”
Among other requirements, the standard necessitates non-exempt facilities to conduct a hazard assessment and have a written plan to mitigate virus spread, and requires healthcare employers to provide some employees with N95 respirators or other personal protective equipment.
In addition to the ETS, OSHA is issuing updated guidance to help employers and workers in other businesses to protect unvaccinated workers, with a special emphasis on other industries "noted for prolonged close-contacts," including meat processing, manufacturing, seafood, grocery, and high-volume retail.
The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.
Access the full news release on the U.S. Department of Labor website.
See more ANSI member efforts in the ANSI COVID-19 Resource Webpage Highlighting Standardization Community Response.