ACOEM Urges OSHA to Issue Infectious Disease Standard for Health Care Workers

April 13, 2020

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Steny Hoyer
Democratic Majority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
H-107, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Re: OSHA Infectious Disease Standard for Health Care Workers

Dear Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer:

On behalf of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), I am writing to request that provisions be included in the next legislative coronavirus response package that directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an emergency temporary standard within seven days to protect workers, especially those in health care settings, from occupational exposure to COVID-19. In addition, we urge OSHA to issue a permanent standard to protect workers from occupational exposure to infectious pathogens, including novel pathogens. ACOEM was pleased to see that H.R. 6379, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act, contained such provisions in Division D, but disappointed that this section was not incorporated into H.R.748, the CARES Act.

ACOEM is a national medical society representing 4,000 occupational medicine physicians and other health care professionals devoted to promoting optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments. The College is dedicated to improving the care and well-being of workers through science and the sharing of knowledge.

On March 6, 2020, OSHA received two petitions calling on OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from COVID-19. An emergency temporary standard is necessary to ensure the immediate protection of workers in health care settings and other high-risk workplaces identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and OSHA from an infection related to COVID-19. Although the CDC has issued interim guidance to protect health care workers, the guidance is non-binding, and OSHA currently has no enforceable standard to protect workers from airborne infectious diseases. This lack of an enforceable standard leaves the nation’s health care workers at an elevated risk of exposure to the COVID-19 at a time when they are needed most.

Occupational physicians are witnessing and attempting to mitigate the challenges associated with protecting workers from the spread of COVID-19 in many of the most high-risk sectors, including in health facilities. An enforceable OSHA standard is critical to ensuring that workplaces have clear and consistent guidelines and expectations when it comes to protecting their employees.

I hope that Congress will seize this opportunity to help protect the lives of health care workers, patients, and the communities in which they live and work from the spread of COVID-19.

Thank you for your continued leadership in the legislative COVID-19 response efforts, and please do not hesitate to contact Patrick O’Connor, ACOEM’s Director of Government Affairs, at 703-351-6222 if you would like additional information regarding how this bill will aid both health care workers and employers.


Stephen A. Frangos, MD, MPH, FACOEM