OSHA ETS Reopening: Occupational Exposure to COVID-19 in Healthcare Settings

From the National Rural Health Association

On March 23, 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reopened the rulemaking record partially and scheduled an informal public hearing to seek comments on specific topics that relate to the development of a final standard to protect healthcare and healthcare support service workers from workplace exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

The original 2021 OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) aimed to protect workers in healthcare settings from occupational exposure to COVID-19. The ETS – which also served as a proposed rule – focused on healthcare workers most likely to have contact with people infected with the virus. The healthcare ETS required covered healthcare employers to develop and implement COVID-19 response plans to identify and control COVID-19 hazards in healthcare settings.

The agency is reopening the rulemaking record to allow for new data and comments on topics, including the following:

  • Alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for healthcare infection control procedures.
  • Additional flexibility for employers.
  • Removal of scope exemptions.
  • Tailoring controls to address interactions with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
  • Employer support for employees who wish to be vaccinated.
  • Limited coverage of construction activities in healthcare settings.
  • COVID-19 recordkeeping and reporting provisions.
  • Triggering requirements based on community transmission levels.
  • The potential evolution of SARS-CoV-2 into a second novel strain.
  • The health effects and risk of COVID-19 since the ETS was issued.

Comments on OSHA’s limited reopening of the COVID-19 healthcare ETS are due by April 22, 2022, and the informal public hearing will begin on April 27, 2022. Individuals interested in testifying at the online public hearing must submit a notice of intention to appear by April 6, 2022. View OSHA’s Federal Register Notice on govinfo.gov. View OSHA’s press release on the Notice on osha.gov.

NRHA plans to submit comments on the limited reopening reflective consistent with the intent of our 2021 comments. Please reach out if there are specific issues or concerns you’d like NRHA to reflect in our comment letter.  For more information, please contact ccochran@ruralhealth.us.