Please attribute the following statement to HPAE President Debbie White, RN:
Throughout the pandemic, more needed to be done to protect healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are women, people of color and immigrants, who put their lives on the line every day in the past year. We applaud today’s announcement by U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh of the new OSHA emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 focused on healthcare workers, which finally creates a standard that requires employers to protect their workers from exposure to COVID-19.
Our union filed more than two dozen complaints against employers with OSHA for numerous violations, including failing to protect the respiratory health of healthcare workers. Those complaints led to citations and fines against employers. Those citations were given based on existing standards. This begs the question: in this past year, shouldn’t OSHA have done more to protect workers? OSHA’s failure to issue an emergency temporary standard up until now has likely resulted in needless workplace exposures, infections, illness, and death.
While today’s announcement came much, too late to effect the necessary change needed in the past year, our union is looking forward to a day when our healthcare facilities prioritize the health and safety of their workers, over the financial interests of their corporation. We look forward to a day when employers must work with their frontline caregivers to develop plans to prepare for any future infectious disease outbreak.
Although infection rates are declining, we know the pandemic is not over. We are hopeful these new rules will provide for transparency and accountability in pandemic preparedness policies. We are heartened to know that this new ETS will give OSHA the authority to enforce the implementation of safety protocols that will keep frontline workers and their patients safe. We cannot afford to put our healthcare workforce at risk as we have done over the last year of this pandemic.
Fore more information, contact: Michael Allen, (646) 436-7556