Hospital Group Asks OSHA for 6-Month Halt of Covid-19 Standard

June 30, 2021, 5:51 PM

The American Hospital Association is asking OSHA to delay the compliance schedule of its Covid-19 emergency temporary standard for health care, asserting that providers need more time to navigate “complex” requirements.

The organization called for the six-month delay in a letter addressed to Occupational Safety and Health Administration Acting Assistant Secretary James Frederick.

“Hospitals and health systems are just now emerging from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our members have told us that they need more time to implement the many new requirements contained in the 916-page ETS,” Stacey Hughes, the group’s executive vice president for government relations and public policy, said in the June 29 letter.

The emergency rule, which applies only to health-care employers whose workers may come in contact with infected people as part of their duties, took effect immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register on June 21. Qualifying employers must comply with most provisions by July 6. Other mandates have a July 21 compliance deadline.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Labor Department, which oversees OSHA, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The AHA represents about 5,000 member hospitals, health systems, and other health-care organizations, as well as more than 270,000 affiliated physicians.

The group pointed to specific compliance issues, such as differences between the rule and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In particular, the letter cited provisions of the standard that “will put health care workers at greater risk of COVID-19 infection,” including “barrier requirements that could impede airflow.”

It said “another area of concern is the requirement that rooms in which an aerosol-generating procedures are performed be cleaned/disinfected after every such procedure—even when the patient remains in the room and staff are protected by vaccines and personal protective equipment.”

The organization also asked OSHA to extend the comment deadline by an additional 30 days, through Aug. 20.

The AFL-CIO union federation, United Food and Commercial Workers, and National Nurses United filed separate petitions in federal appeals courts last week asking for a review of the new OSHA standard.

To contact the reporter on this story: Fatima Hussein in Washington at fhussein@bloombergenvironment.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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