Politics Biden administration releases emergency temporary standard for healthcare facilities

01:25  11 june  2021
01:25  11 june  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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The Labor Department on Thursday released a COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) for health care workers, following over a year of Democratic lawmakers pushing for such a standard the all frontline workers in the coronavirus pandemic.

a person standing in a room: Biden administration releases emergency temporary standard for healthcare facilities © Getty Images Biden administration releases emergency temporary standard for healthcare facilities

The standard covers healthcare facilities treating COVID-19 and requires that employers comply with safety and health standards issued and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), such as mask-wearing and cleaning procedures.

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It also requires healthcare facilities to provide their workers with a safe workplace free from recognized hazards and to notify them when there are exposed to infections.

OSHA updated guidance for employers and workers not covered by the OSHA ETS that it deems higher-risk workplaces, including manufacturing, meatpacking plants, grocery stores, and retail stores.

That guidance includes staggering break times, staffer worker arrivals and departure times, and providing visual cues like signs to maintain distancing.

The agency announced in April it sent a draft ETS on the coronavirus pandemic to the Office of Management and Budget, defending the extra time the agency took to move on establishing a standard. President Biden issued an executive order in January on protecting worker health and safety, which called on OSHA to issue an ETS by March 15.

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was critical of OSHA's decision not to include other workers in the standard on Thursday and called the move for health care workers a "first step."

"OSHA's decision to omit other frontline workers exposed to COVID-19, including farmworkers, grocery workers, workers in meat-packing facilities and those working in homeless shelters and prisons, is troubling and shortsighted," she said.

She added that House Democrats will continue to fight for broad safety standards for workers.

"And we must do so in a way that addresses the inequities exposed by the pandemic, including the disproportionate exposure of workers of color to the virus," the speaker said.

Democrats, unions and worker advocates have called for official OSHA COVID-19 standards since the onset of the pandemic. Former President Trump's OSHA refused to impose a nationwide safety standard, arguing that OSHA guidance was sufficient.

OSHA can authorize an emergency standard if it determines workers are in grave danger. That standard can only be challenged in a U.S. court of appeals as opposed to OSHA guidance, which allows for flexibility and lets administration officials change it as they see fit.

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