OSHA Seeks Comments as It Develops Final COVID-19 Standard for Healthcare
OSHA announced on Tuesday that it has reopened the rulemaking record and scheduled an informal public hearing to collect comments on certain topics as it works to develop a final standard to protect healthcare workers from exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Topics of interest to the agency include alignment with CDC’s recommendations for healthcare infection control procedures, flexibility for employers, tailored controls to address interactions with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, and requirements based on community transmission levels. OSHA also seeks new data and comments related to the potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2 into a second novel strain and the health effects and risk of COVID-19 since the agency’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) for healthcare settings was issued.
The COVID-19 healthcare ETS, which went into effect in June 2021, was intended to protect healthcare workers from contracting SARS-CoV-2 in settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated. OSHA withdrew the non-recordkeeping portions of the ETS in December 2021, stating its intention to “continue to work expeditiously to issue a final standard that will protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards.” Recordkeeping requirements remain in effect because they were adopted under a separate provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. As OSHA continues development of a final standard, it is enforcing the general duty clause and its general standards to help protect healthcare workers from COVID-19.
Written comments about OSHA’s rulemaking on occupational exposure to COVID-19 in healthcare settings are due by April 22. Individuals who wish to provide oral testimony or documentary evidence at the online hearing on April 27 must electronically notify OSHA of their intention to appear by April 6. Further details about the comment period and the virtual meeting can be found in the Federal Register and on OSHA’s website.