Statement: OSHA Must Release ETS Standard for Non-Health Care Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring COVID-19 safety measures in health care workplaces, while releasing only weak guidance for non-health care workers. Juley Fulcher, worker health and safety advocate for Public Citizen, released the following statement:

“OSHA’s move means millions of workers outside of health care settings must continue to wait for full workplace protections from COVID-19. These workers have been at the frontlines of this crisis and have made incredible sacrifices to keep our nation functioning and deserve and need these commonsense protections.

“Public Citizen does applaud OSHA for issuing a standard that provides employees in the health care industry with the COVID-19 protections they need and deserve. These workers have kept our communities safe throughout this crisis and now OSHA has committed to standards that keep them safe in return. Though far too delayed, this long-awaited ETS is a major victory for nurses and health care providers.

“But the ETS fails to protect most workers and their families. After risking their lives and those of their families for well longer than a year, workers deserve better.

“There are nearly 160 million people in the U.S. who haven’t received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. Every day, tens of thousands of Americans contract this virus and hundreds die. Workplace transmission remains a major driver of coronavirus infection, and a disproportionate number of those in harm’s way are Black and Brown workers, who have suffered higher rates of illness and death during the pandemic.

“The purpose of the Occupational Safety and Health Act is to ensure a safe work environment for all working people. A more comprehensive ETS will reduce communal transmission, lower the number of deaths, and strengthen our capacity to respond to the spread of potential future strains of the virus. It is essential to ending this pandemic and protecting American workers.

“President Joe Biden promised to be there for workers. To keep that promise he must take immediate action to promulgate a COVID-19 ETS for all America’s workers.”