Urge OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard for Infectious Diseases

The world is on the verge of a deadly coronavirus pandemic due to COVID-19 and the disease is now spreading quickly throughout the United States. The impact of the outbreak already has been far reaching and the threat is growing. Current estimates demonstrate that more than 19 million workers in the United States would have an elevated risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus in the event of a widespread outbreak, a significant portion of whom could become infected and die.

These are the workers who answer the call when an outbreak occurs, and they deserve to have confidence that the appropriate resources, equipment, training and protocols are readily available in their workplaces to protect themselves, as well as to avoid infecting other people, including patients, co-workers, the public and their own families when they go home. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the obligation to ensure the health and safety of all working people, particularly from an infectious disease such as COVID-19.

While COVID-19 is the most recent global health threat, infectious disease outbreaks and other biological threats will continue to occur. Now is the time to plan to protect workers not only from this COVID-19 virus, but also to learn from our past inaction to prevent a public health crisis.

An emergency temporary standard is needed to protect workers from the potential COVID-19 pandemic and future infectious agents.

There is no existing OSHA standard or basic regulatory framework that comprehensively addresses an employer’s responsibility to protect workers from infectious diseases. In the absence of a set of mandatory infection control requirements that employers must implement, there is no assurance that all workers will be protected from infectious diseases like COVID-19.

Unions have been protecting our members on the front lines, and we have highly trained and equipped workers. But that isn't enough, the COVID-19 outbreak is another tragic reminder that the United States is not prepared to adequately protect workers on the front lines from infectious disease.

Preparedness is only effective if it includes a comprehensive framework to protect the health and safety of workers on the front lines of protecting and treating the public during a health crisis. OSHA has the authority and responsibility to protect the health and safety of America’s workers and must act swiftly. The magnitude and urgency of this outbreak cannot be minimized.

Urge your U.S. representative to call on OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious diseases to ensure that workers will be protected from all infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

Use the form on the right to be connected to your representative.

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