The Labor Department is taking long-awaited steps to protect certain workplaces from the coronavirus, proposing new safety rules for health care jobs.
“Health care 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,” said Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
The emergency OSHA standard includes requirements for health care employers to provide enough masks and PPE, screen patients for COVID, ensure proper air filtration and encourage employees to get vaccinated.
The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health praised the new rules while knocking the Labor Department for not issuing pandemic standards for all workplaces.
“We feel strongly that all workers need protection," said Jessica Martinez, the group’s co-executive director. "We’re still not quite done with this pandemic.”
A Newsy investigation this spring found employees at a variety of industries filing a gush of COVID-related safety complaints to OSHA, more than 14,000 since the pandemic began.
Retail and other sectors fought to keep OSHA from issuing new rules, threatening lawsuits.
“We just really question whether or not this is the time for OSHA to take such an extraordinary step,” said Ed Egee, vice president of government relations for the National Retail Federation, during a March interview with Newsy.
The Labor Department says months of analysis showed the need for rules was most urgent in health care, where risk of infection remains high.
OSHA also has updated voluntary COVID guidance for all workplaces, urging employers to offer paid time off to let workers get vaccinated and to recover from any side effects.