The AFL-CIO; the American Federation of Teachers; National Nurses United; AFSCME; the United Food and Commercial Workers; the United Steelworkers; the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW; and SEIU issued the following statement on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) removing the COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) for health care workers:
First and foremost, we strongly disagree with the Biden administration’s decision to discontinue the enforceable OSHA ETS for health care workers. With the omicron variant surging and no permanent standard in place, our front-line heroes are in grave danger of COVID-19 infection. Workplace COVID-19 outbreaks are exploding; recent data show the number of infections doubled and deaths nearly quadrupled among nursing home workers alone.
The ETS made clear to health care employers that proven prevention measures limiting airborne exposures to COVID-19 are absolutely necessary and would be fully enforced to keep workers from getting sick and being removed from work. These include improved ventilation, patient screening and respirators, and providing paid leave when workers are infected and must quarantine.
Our message to every employer is this: While vaccines and boosters help prevent serious disease and death, COVID-19 is life-threatening, especially to health care and medical workers, and all proven protective measures must remain in place. The administration’s pursuit of a broader infectious disease standard, something we’ve championed for years, will empower us to fight the next pandemic. But to protect workers now, we need to build on the emergency COVID-19 standard by making it permanent, not scrapping it altogether.