Permanent Rule for COVID-19 and Healthcare Workers Ready by Fall
A permanent standard on COVID-19 for the healthcare industry could be finalized in the fall, OSHA administrator Doug Parker testified during a House Workforce Protections Subcommittee hearing. In collaboration with the Small Business Administration, Parker added that his agency intends to convene a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel to review a possible standard for preventing workplace violence in health care settings.
Although OSHA’s priority is to finish its rulemaking on the COVID-19 in healthcare rule and an infectious disease rule focused on health care workers, “it’s not keeping us from doing other work,” Parker said, adding that the agency is working “very diligently” on the workplace violence in health care standard.
The hearing also included Thomas Costa, director of education, workforce, and income security in the Government Accountability Office. Because no specific standard on COVID-19 exists, Costa said, OSHA faces “challenges applying existing standards to COVID cases” and sometimes has to rely on the General Duty Clause.
“However, violations of the General Duty Clause require substantial time to collect the documentation to support a citation,” he said. “Moreover, OSHA must issue a citation within six months of any violation. OSHA sometimes didn’t know about possible violations for months, limiting OSHA’s ability to cite General Duty Clause violations.”
Costa noted that of the roughly 1,000 COVID-19-related violations OSHA issued, only 25 cited the General Duty Clause. From February 2020 through this past December, he also said that OSHA received more than 22,000 COVID-19-related reports and conducted more than 3,000 inspections related to COVID-19.