OSHA extends comment period for COVID-19 emergency protection standard

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration did not agree to give providers more time to implement a protection standard that requires employers to give personal protective equipment to front-line healthcare workers. (Getty/FatCamera)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is giving providers another 30 days to comment on a new COVID-19 emergency protection standard but does not offer them more time to comply.

OSHA announced Thursday that it is extending until Aug. 20 the comment period for the emergency protection standard, which outlines new protections to prevent front-line healthcare workers from contracting COVID-19.

However, the agency did not give providers more time to comply with the standard as it still went into effect earlier this month. 

The standard has new requirements for hospitals, nursing homes and home care providers such as ensuring the availability of personal protective equipment such as N95 masks.

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Employers must provide a face mask to any employee when indoors or driving a vehicle for work purposes.

However, provider groups have asked OSHA to give employers at least six months to implement the standard.

The American Hospital Association said in a letter to OSHA that facilities had to create new procedures and policies to implement the standard and create a compliance plan.

“Changes in hospital policies and procedures are not simply a matter of changing words on paper, they require careful analysis and planning,” the letter said.

The Medical Group Management Association also wrote that the standard was duplicative as physician groups are already meeting federal and state requirements to protect workers.

But the standard has been a major request from nurses’ unions who have slammed some hospitals for failing to protect front-line workers.