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OSHA COVID-19 Healthcare ETS Withdrawn – But Still Comply With Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) posted a statement dated Dec. 27, 2021 announcing that it is withdrawing the COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued on June 21, 2021, with the exception of the recordkeeping requirements within the Healthcare ETS, which remain in place under a separate provision of the OSH Act. As a reminder, the Healthcare ETS applied to health care settings and required employers to take certain steps to ensure the safety of their staff, including providing personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning and disinfecting, screening, etc. The recordkeeping requirements still intact include maintaining a COVID-19 log of positive COVID-19 cases among employees (regardless of whether those cases are work-related) and reporting work-related COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations within 24 hours and work-related fatalities within eight hours of learning of such events to OSHA.

However, according to a communication from OSHA: “As OSHA works towards a permanent regulatory solution, employers must continue to comply with their obligations under the General Duty Clause, the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protection Standards, as well as other applicable OSHA standards to protect their employees against the hazard of COVID-19 in the workplace. OSHA will vigorously enforce these ongoing requirements. In doing so, OSHA will accept compliance with the terms of the healthcare ETS as satisfying employers’ related obligations under the general duty clause, respiratory protection, and PPE standards. Continued compliance with the requirements of the healthcare ETS is the simplest way for employers in healthcare settings to protect their employees’ health and to comply with their OSH Act obligations. The Healthcare ETS webpage - https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets - remains active on the www.OSHA.gov website for guidance and informational purposes.”

What does this mean for you? Providers should basically continue to follow the requirements of the Healthcare ETS to show compliance, which includes activities you would generally otherwise be doing for infection prevention and control. However, the medical removal benefits in the Healthcare ETS are no longer in place.

A request for comments to extend certain portions of the Healthcare ETS was posted in the Federal Register, with a due date of Jan. 31, 2022. Reportedly, OSHA will work to issue a final standard and to propose rulemaking in the spring with respect to an infectious disease standard.

Contact: Diane Darbyshire, ddarbyshire@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8828