National Nurses United

National Nurse magazine July-August-September 2021

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4 N A T I O N A L N U R S E W W W . N A T I O N A L N U R S E S U N I T E D . O R G J U LY | A U G U S T | S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 NATIONAL T he occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) emergency temporary standard (ETS) on Covid-19 in health care went into effect in July. The ETS is the first- in-the-nation enforceable federal Covid-19 standard. National Nurses United called it "an important step forward that will con- tribute to safer health care settings for workers, patients, and communities." "After more than a year of the Trump administration's refusal to require employ- ers to provide enhanced infection control protections in health care settings in the face of the worst pandemic in a century, this is a monumental message that they will be held to account," said NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN. "The ETS means new, mandatory requirements for employers, with penalties for those who violate those requirements," she noted. There are significant requirements that will protect nurses and other health care workers and patients. Concurrently, NNU joined with other labor and health care activists in encouraging additional protections in other settings. "All workers, everyone, deserve to be safe—on the job, in their homes, and in their communi- ties," said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN. In the health care arena, especially in acute-care hospitals, "this standard is testi- mony to the advocacy of registered nurses and our allies across the country who have fought with employers to demand safer workplaces, from optimal personal protec- tive equipment, to stronger infection control measures, to corporate accountability from employers," said Castillo. "We now have an additional legal sanc- tion for employers who continue to put their profits and budget goals over worker and patient safety. And we know that the test of the standard is dependent on our ability to enforce it to make sure our employers com- ply," Castillo said. This is the first OSHA emergency tempo- rary standard since 1983, was promulgated over the extensive opposition of and lobby- ing by the hospital industry and other corporate interests, and lays the ground- work for adoption of broad, permanent OSHA standards on infectious diseases, including for future epidemics. NNU nurses appreciate the strong support of Labor Sec- retary Marty Walsh and many supporters in Congress, especially Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, in order to secure the ETS. Among the important new requirements included in the ETS: • All health care employers must have written infection control safety and imple- mentation plans, developed in consultation with non-managerial employees and their union. • Employers must provide personal pro- tective equipment (PPE) to all employees caring for suspected and confirmed Covid- 19 patients, including respiratory protection at least as protective as an N95 filtering facepiece respirator, eye protection, isola- tion gowns, and medical-grade gloves. • Employers must notify health care employees exposed to Covid-19 positive indi- viduals in the workplace, and to maintain pay and benefits for those who must take time off as a result of infection or exposure. • Employers must implement a multiple- measures approach to prevent Covid-19 transmission within the facility, including improving ventilation rates and air filtration levels, requiring everyone present in the facility to wear face masks and observe physical distancing, conducting frequent environmental cleaning, screening all patients and visitors for Covid-19, and ensuring patients who are suspected to have Covid-19 are promptly isolated. "This ETS is a major victory for those who have worked so hard to achieve this recognition of the terrible toll on nurses and other health care workers, against the malfeasance and resistance of employers and many elected officials," said Castillo. "This is still a dangerous and deadly pan- demic. People in the United States continue to be infected and die. And nurses and other frontline caregivers remain in danger, espe- cially with the pullback in safety measures across the country that will likely only increase the number of infections, hospital- izations, and deaths," said Triunfo-Cortez. More than 430 RNs have died of Covid-19, among the more than 4,300 health care worker deaths overall, according to NNU tracking data. Nearly a million health care workers have been infected. Since the data has not been col- lected in many places, a full accounting may never be known. —Charles Idelson NEWS BRIEFS Nurses win OSHA emergency temporary standard The ETS is the first national enforceable Covid-19 standard

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