Nurses’ unions are asking the courts to force the Biden administration to issue permanent standards for the prevention of COVID-19 in the workplace after it announced plans to withdraw parts of a temporary emergency standard for healthcare professionals.
The Labor Inspectorate has “failed” to protect nurses and other workers required by law, NNU, the New York State Nurses Association, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals and other unions argued in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals. to the DC circuit.
While OSHA issued temporary standards for health employers in June, the agency last week announced plans to withdraw most because it could not implement a final rule within six months as required by law. OSHA has predicted that its proposed standard for infectious diseases will be released in April, meaning that a final rule will not be ready until at least 30 days after that.
The health ETS applied to environments where COVID-19 patients are treated and required employers to follow the rules regarding personal protective equipment, physical distance, paid leave for vaccinations and other requirements.
“Once OSHA establishes the existence of an emergency (as it did here) and issues an emergency standard, that emergency standard shall remain in force until a final rule is issued, which shall take place within six months of the publication of the emergency standard,” unions argued in the trial. “OSHA has no discretion to create a time gap of indefinite duration in the regulatory framework for the protection of health workers while a pandemic rages.”
NNU asks the court to order OSHA to issue a permanent standard of healthcare exposure to COVID-19 and to maintain and enforce the temporary emergency standard until a permanent rule enters into force.
OSHA claims that healthcare professionals are still protected by other existing standards, but it also encourages employers to voluntarily follow the expired temporary standard until a final rule is clear.
“Continued compliance with the terms of the Health ETS is the simplest way for health care employers to protect the health of their employees and ensure compliance with their OSH legal obligations,” the agency wrote on its website last week.