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Finalized standard on COVID-19 for health care imminent: OSHA official


OSHA is “very, very close” to issuing a permanent standard on COVID-19 for the health care industry, an agency official announced Monday during a presentation at the 2022 NSC Safety Congress & Expo at the San Diego Convention Center.

Earlier this summer, OSHA administrator Doug Parker and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh both testified on Capitol Hill that the standard would likely be published sometime in the fall.

On Monday, Andrew Levinson, director of OSHA’s Directorate of Standards and Guidance, said the forthcoming standard isn’t intended to be permanent and that the agency plans to eventually replace it with a standard on infectious diseases, also for the health care industry. That standard would cover not only airborne diseases such as COVID-19 and tuberculosis, but also non-airborne diseases such as MRSA and monkeypox.

“Once we finish the work on the COVID standard, which should be happening in the coming weeks,” Levinson said, “we will turn to the infectious diseases standard.”

A notice of proposed rulemaking on that standard could appear as soon as May, according to the Department of Labor’s Spring 2022 regulatory agenda.

An update to OSHA’s standard on hazard communication is expected to be finalized in December or January, Levinson said.

The current standard (1910.1200) is aligned with the third edition of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, also known as GHS. The final rule would update the regulations to align with GHS’ seventh edition.

Additionally, Levinson said a broad look at OSHA’s rulemaking efforts, the Fall 2022 regulatory agenda, is scheduled to be released between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He added that neither OSHA nor DOL controls the publication of the agenda. That falls under the purview of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

– Alan Ferguson, reporting from San Diego