The House Education and Labor Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee today held a hearing examining federal actions to protect workers from COVID-19, which featured witnesses from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (H.R. 6800), recently passed by the House, included a provision that would require OSHA to promulgate within seven days of enactment an emergency temporary standard to protect health care and other employees from occupational exposure to SARS–CoV–2.
In a letter submitted for the hearing, AHA said the provision “would be extremely difficult to implement in the midst of a global pandemic and could result in a confusing array of regulations and guidance.”
For example, it said hospitals and health systems “have a long history of establishing and supporting infection control programs to maintain an environment safe for patients and workers,” and already adhere to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rules based on science-based guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as recent CDC guidance to protect health care workers and patients during the pandemic.
“Additionally, the AHA has proposed several important initiatives to provide support for those on the front lines of health care delivery,” the letter notes. “These include child care; housing and transportation vouchers; expanded liability protections for health care workers; ensuring coverage of any health care costs not covered otherwise; daily free testing for exposure to COVID-19; education loan pay-down; supportive services to help preserve mental health and wellbeing; and bonus pay rewarding extraordinary actions during the pandemic. We urge Congress to consider and approve these provisions as quickly as possible.”