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COVID-19 pandemic: Oregon OSHA lays out timeline for emergency workplace standards, permanent rule

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Salem, OR — Oregon OSHA intends to develop separate emergency temporary standards to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and then expand them into a permanent standard on infectious diseases, according to a tentative timeline released by the agency June 26.

Citing “both the immediate and long-term risks highlighted by the current public and occupational health crisis,” Oregon OSHA outlines plans to publish during the week of July 20 a draft of an emergency temporary standard to address COVID-19 in health care and “closely related industries,” before releasing a draft of a general workplace emergency temporary standard the week of July 27. A call for public input for both standards would follow.

According to the timeline, Oregon OSHA – which operates under federal OSHA’s State Plan program – would adopt both emergency temporary standards Sept. 1, effective until Feb. 28. Oregon OSHA would introduce a draft of a permanent standard on airborne infectious diseases the week of Oct. 12, with officials hopeful to have a permanent rule in place the week of Feb. 22 after a public comment period and subsequent agency review.

 

The agency views the development of the potential emergency temporary standards and the potential permanent standard “as two essentially different projects, in both nature and scope, recognizing that an ongoing infectious disease rule would not be as closely tailored to the current crisis as would a temporary rule. It also assumes health care (and related activities) and the general workplace would require distinct (although interrelated) sets of requirements.”

Oregon OSHA adds that, for both endeavors, it “plans to rely upon as much collaboration and consultation with experts and with stakeholders as the time frames involved and other circumstances allow.”

Despite being pushed to issue an ETS on infectious diseases via multiple petitions and lawsuits from worker advocacy groups, federal OSHA officials have consistently reiterated the agency’s position to instead use existing rules – including its General Duty Clause – to protect workers during the pandemic.

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