January 6, 2022

OSHA Withdraws COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard for Healthcare Settings

OSHA has withdrawn the non-recordkeeping portions of its COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) for healthcare settings, the agency announced in a statement on Dec. 27. The COVID-19 healthcare ETS, which went into effect on June 21, was intended to protect healthcare workers from contracting SARS-CoV-2 in settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, an ETS is effective until superseded by a permanent standard, “a process contemplated by the OSH Act to occur within 6 months of the ETS’s promulgation,” OSHA explains. The agency’s decision to withdraw the ETS is based on its anticipation that a final rule will not be completed during this timeframe. OSHA says it “intends to continue to work expeditiously to issue a final standard that will protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards.”

Recordkeeping requirements, including the COVID-19 log and reporting provisions, remain in effect because they were adopted under a separate provision of the OSH Act. OSHA says it will “vigorously enforce the general duty clause and its general standards” to help protect healthcare workers from COVID-19. Due to the agency’s anticipated finalization of the rule, OSHA encourages employers to continue to implement the requirements of the ETS.

“With the rise of the delta variant this fall, and now the spread of the omicron variant this winter, OSHA believes the danger faced by healthcare workers continues to be of the highest concern and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are still needed to protect them,” the agency states. “Continued adherence to the terms of the healthcare ETS is the simplest way for employers in healthcare settings to protect their employees’ health and ensure compliance with their OSH Act obligations.”

An estimated 10.3 million employees work in the healthcare establishments that were required to comply with the ETS. The standard covered workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities; emergency responders; home healthcare workers; and employees in ambulatory care settings.

For further details, visit OSHA’s COVID-19 healthcare ETS webpage.