OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standards to Protect Healthcare Workers from COVID-19
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect healthcare workers from contracting COVID-19. The ETS is aimed at healthcare settings and healthcare support services where staff may have contact with patients or materials contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.
Examples of staff recognized by the OSHA ETS include healthcare practitioners, emergency medical responders, and healthcare support staff (e.g., facilities, housekeeping, laundry, food services, waste management) working in affected settings. The standard applies to contractors and federal employees. NIH facilities subject to the OSHA safety measures include the Clinical Center, carline COVID-19 test facility, and emergency medical technicians within the NIH Fire Department.
The standard exempts non-hospital ambulatory care settings where personnel are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the building and locations where individuals suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19 are not allowed to enter.
As part of the emergency standard, NIH must notify staff of a contagious COVID-19 positive person present in a healthcare setting subject to these regulations. Visit the following website to view those positive cases: https://employees.nih.gov/covid-19-cases. This site will be updated as cases present.
Among other provisions, the standard requires affected facilities to conduct hazard assessments and have a written COVID-19 plan to outline strategies to mitigate disease transmission. The NIH Safety Guidance (https://www.ors.od.nih.gov/Return-to-Work-Guidance.pdf) has been updated according to OSHA's requirements. For the most part, NIH's existing COVID policies and practices align with the OSHA ETA. Additional training will be provided to educate employees on COVID-19 hazards associated with specific job tasks, as well as the controls implemented in the workplace to address these hazards.
Employers must comply with most provisions of the OSHA ETS by July 6. Requirements related to installation of physical barriers, ventilation and training must be completed by July 21.
Questions regarding the OSHA ETS can be answered by your COVID-19 Safety Coordinator. Questions or concerns associated with the Clinical Center should be directed to the Clinical Center's Hospital Epidemiology Service at 301-496-2960. Employees associated with the COVID-19 carline testing facility the NIH Fire Department should call the Office of Research Services, Division of Occupational Health and Safety at 301-496-2960.
You can learn more about the federal requirements at: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets.