OSHA withdraws non-recordkeeping portions of its ETS on COVID-19 for health care workers
Washington — OSHA is withdrawing the non-recordkeeping portions of its emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 focused on health care workers, the agency announced Dec. 27.
According to a statement on the status of the ETS, OSHA intends to continue to “work expeditiously” to issue a final rule that will protect health care workers from COVID-19, while the agency also considers its broader infectious disease rulemaking. “However, given that OSHA anticipates a final rule cannot be completed in a time frame approaching the one contemplated” by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (within six months of the ETS’s promulgation), the agency has decided to withdraw the non-recordkeeping portions of the ETS.
The COVID-19 log and reporting provisions – 1910.502(q)(2)(ii), (q)(3)(ii)-(iv), and (r) – remain in effect.
The ETS applies to “settings where any employees provide health care or health care support services,” such as hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Some exceptions apply, however, including “non-hospital ambulatory care settings” where non-employees are screened for COVID-19 before entering and individuals suspected of having or are confirmed to have COVID-19 are not allowed to enter.
OSHA says it intends to “vigorously enforce” the General Duty Clause and its general standards, including those on personal protective equipment (1910.132) and respiratory protection (1910.134), to protect health care workers.
Despite its decision to withdraw much of the ETS requirements, the agency, citing the recent rise in COVID-19 cases involving the omicron variant and the anticipated finalization of the rule, strongly encourages all health care employers to continue to implement them to protect workers.
“OSHA believes the terms of the health care ETS remain relevant in general duty cases in that they show that COVID-19 poses a hazard in the health care industry and that there are feasible means of abating the hazard,” the statement reads. “OSHA plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register to implement this announcement.”