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OSHA to extend parts of emergency standard for health care workers


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has published a 30-day request for comments to extend certain portions of its Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard, which expired Dec. 21.

On Dec. 27, OSHA announced that “it intends to continue to work expeditiously to issue a final standard that will protect health care workers from COVID-19 hazards and will do so as it also considers its broader infectious disease rulemaking.”

OSHA said that because it “anticipates a final rule cannot be completed in a timeframe approaching the one contemplated” by law, it withdrew the non-recordkeeping portions of the health care ETS. The COVID-19 log and reporting provisions remain in effect due to the spread of the omicron variant, the agency said.

OSHA said the recordkeeping provisions “were adopted under a separate provision of the (Occupational Safety and Health) Act … and OSHA found good cause to forgo notice and comment” of extending the rules “in light of the grave danger presented by the pandemic.”

“OSHA believes the danger faced by health care workers continues to be of the highest concern, and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are still needed to protect them. Given these facts, and given OSHA’s anticipated finalization of this rule, OSHA strongly encourages all health care employers to continue to implement the ETS’s requirements in order to protect employees from a hazard that too often causes death or serious physical harm to employees.”

As OSHA works toward a permanent regulatory solution, the agency said it “will vigorously enforce the general duty clause and its general standards,” including the Personal Protective Equipment and Respiratory Protection Standards, to help protect health care employees.