The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will hold a public hearing on its emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 exposure at work before it makes the standard permanent, the office said Tuesday morning.
OSHA published the temporary standard last June, but let its non-recordkeeping provisions expire in December. However, the office said at the time it would continue using the standard to evaluate healthcare facilities while working on a permanent rule.
OSHA maintains healthcare emergency temporary standard
OSHA's COVID-19 prevention standard could lapse within days
OSHA is also reopening the standard's comment period for another 30 days. The comment period was already extended once last summer, and the standard received mixed reviews from stakeholders. The American Hospital Association urged OSHA not to finalize the rule and other healthcare organizations called it unnecessary because they already implemented their own safety precautions. But National Nurses United has pushed for a permanent policy.The hearing will be held virtually starting April 27, and could continue for several days. Anyone will be able to provide oral testimony and evidence on issues concerning the emergency temporary standard, but potential witnesses need to let OSHA know within 14 days if they plan to participate. The hearing is informal and aims to further gather and clarify information, according to the notice.
OSHA now wants comments on a list of potential changes it could make to the standard, including whether it should align it more closely with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. Some commenters last summer requested more alignment, but CDC recommendations continue to evolve, which could make adding them to a permanent standard difficult.
OSHA also wants feedback on whether to broaden certain requirements on cleaning, ventilation and barriers, and whether to include an exception to the rule for employers complying with CDC guidance. OSHA is considering tailoring requirements to situations or areas where COVID-19 is suspected or confirmed, including provisions on wearing facemasks and cleaning.