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OSHA’s Chief Looks Ahead

OSHA is working on a permanent rule to replace its Covid 19 Emergency Temporay Standard after that ETS was struck down by the Supreme Court because it had required that all private employees must be vacinated against the disease.

Douglas L. Parker, OSHA’s new chief, told a recent congressional hearing ,“Covid 19 has been the occupational health issue of our time.”

At the hearing, he described the development of an infectious disease standard to apply to high-risk workplaces as a top priority for the agency. Had one been in place prior to the pandemic, he argued, “OSHA would have been in a better position to address Covid.”

However, he did not provide a target date for when the new standard would be issued. Unlike the ETS on Covid which was greeted with such fierce opposition, this time the agency will follow all of the notice and public comment procedures normally required for the development of a federal regulation.

This delay does not mean OSHA is waiting for the new rule to take action on Covid, he pointed out to the legislators. Since early 2021, agency staff have conducted 1,826 Covid 19 related inspections in health care facilities, with an additional 701 inspections conducted by state plans, Parker said. He noted that the agency also has responded to complaints filed by workers in other industries.

OSHA also launched an enforcement initiative in March to evaluate and ensure the readiness of hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities to protect workers when Covid 19 surges occur.

“While Covid 19 remains a priority, we are also looking ahead to ensure workers in the highest risk workplaces are protected against future infectious disease outbreaks and pandemics,” Parker said.

“Those efforts include developing an infectious disease standard to ensure health care workers are protected in future pandemics and developing infectious disease preparedness training so all workplaces can be more prepared.”

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