DC Circuit speaks out against nurses union lawsuit to fast-track OSHA healthcare rule –

The DC Circuit has decided it cannot force the federal government to quickly and permanently enact a proposed rule to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19, after a group of unions filed a petition asking him to do so.

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration adopted a draft version of an Emergency Temporary Standard in June 2021. The standard required healthcare employers, including long-term care operators, to conduct risk assessments and have written plans to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, among other measures. But the agency has since backed down on enforcement, removing the “non-record-keeping” portions of that standard in December as it continued to work on creating a permanent rule.

National Nurses United, the AFL-CIO and other unions filed an emergency motion Jan. 5, asking the appeals court to order OSHA to issue a permanent rule within 30 days and to apply its temporary version in the meantime.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled Friday that it cannot order OSHA to create a permanent standard, Bloomberg Law reported. “OSHA has no clear obligation to issue a permanent standard, so we cannot compel the agency to do so,” the judges said.

The court also rejected the unions’ request that OSHA act more quickly.

“OSHA’s decision whether, when, and how vigorously to apply a particular standard is at the discretion of the agency and is not subject to judicial review,” the court said.

OSHA officials said a permanent standard would come by September or October, depending on Bloomberg law.

A break for seniors?

The decision could give the senior living industry more time to push back on some of OSHA’s plans. Industry advocates expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed rule, calling it “overly prescriptive”, with the potential to cause confusion.

Aged life and care advocates have called for the standard to include broader requirements and flexibility to respond to changing circumstances. OSHA should defer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on public health matters, LeadingAge Vice President of Legal and Social Accountability Cory Kallheim wrote in remarks to the agency. Department of Labor in April.

In addition to risk assessment and planning requirements, the temporary standard calls on healthcare employers to provide certain employees with N95 respirators and other personal protective equipment, and includes protocols for social distancing, employee screening, cleaning and disinfection.

“Sufficient guidelines and regulations” already exist across the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and existing OSHA tools for enforcing workplace safety are adequate to address pandemic concerns, Kallheim said.

National Nurses United, meanwhile, said it was disappointed with the DC Circuit’s decision.

“[W]We will not relent in our efforts to ensure that nurses and all other healthcare workers have the occupational health and safety protections they need to stay safe during the ongoing pandemic,” the president said. John Ross, RN “We urge OSHA to release its promised permanent COVID standard for healthcare workers as soon as possible.”

Others have joined the lawsuit, including unions representing nurses in New York and Pennsylvania.

Comments are closed.