New OSHA health care standards

Health

BOSTON (SHNS) – Many health care facilities will be required to conduct hazard assessments, establish a plan to mitigate virus spread, and provide workers with personal protective equipment under new federal regulations aimed at protecting employees who continue to face COVID-19 risks.

As the virus’s impact dwindles nationally and as states reopen, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday issued an emergency temporary standard for health care workers and employers in settings with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.

“Too many of our frontline healthcare workers continue to be at high risk of contracting the coronavirus,” U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a statement. “This standard follows the science, and will provide increased protections for those whose health is at heightened risk from coronavirus while they provide us with critical healthcare services. Given the pace of vaccinations, this standard, along with the guidance OSHA, the CDC and other agencies have released, will help us protect frontline healthcare workers and end this pandemic once and for all.”

The National Nurses United union, which represents more than 175,000 members, praised the new standards, calling them “an important step forward” to offer safer working conditions.

“After more than a year of the Trump administration’s refusal to require employers to provide enhanced infection control protections in health care settings in the face of the worst pandemic in a century, this is a monumental message that they will be held to account,” NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez said in a statement.

“The ETS means new, mandatory requirements for employers, with penalties for those who violate those requirements.” OSHA and the Department of Labor also released updated guidance for other industries on how to protect workers.

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