By Carol Davis
National Nurses United (NNU) is commending the release of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on Emerging Infectious Diseases to ensure safe workplaces for nurses and other frontline healthcare workers.
The rules, set to be released Thursday, were expected to apply broadly to all workplaces and require workers to wear masks; however, the Biden administration decided to apply them only to healthcare workers, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said, in announcing the decision today at a hearing of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
“OSHA has tailored a rule that focuses on healthcare, that science tells us that healthcare workers, particularly those who have come into regular contact with people either suspected of having or being treated for COVID-19, are most at risk,” Walsh said.
NNU emphasized the importance of an enforceable mandatory standard for healthcare employers.
“This is still a dangerous and deadly pandemic,” said NNU president Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN. “Americans continue to be infected and die. Nurses and other frontline caregivers remain in danger, especially with the pullback in safety measures across the country that will likely only increase the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.”
As of today, more than 400 RNs have died, among more than 3,800 healthcare worker deaths overall, according to NNU tracking data. However, the full accounting may never be known because complete data has not been collected, NNU said.
While the ETS is targeted to healthcare employers, NNU also supports stronger workplace pandemic safety measures for all workers, all patients, and all communities, Triunfo-Cortez said.
NNU has battled hospital employers from the pandemic’s outset to ensure nurses have safe personal protective equipment and other infection control measures, the union said.
“An ETS is a major step toward requiring accountability for hospitals who consistently put their budget goals and profits,” Triunfo-Cortez said, “over our health and safety.”
Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.