A federal court of appeals has denied an emergency petition by healthcare labor unions to force the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create a permanent workplace safety rules regarding Covid-19. As Reuters reported last week, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit decided in a three-judge panel that it lacked the power to make such an order, “because OSHA could ultimately determine that a COVID-19 rule is unnecessary.”
The action began in January, when a coalition of labor unions asked the court to require OSHA to issue a permanent rule regarding workplace exposure to Covid-19. The agency previously issued an emergency temporary standard in June 2021 mandating certain Covid-19 safety measures in medical facilities, but it announced its withdrawal of this standard six months later. “Federal law gives OSHA six months to convert an ETS into a permanent rule,” Reuters explains, “but the agency in December said it needed more time to do so and that it would no longer enforce the temporary standard.”
In their petition to force OSHA to issue a rule, the labor unions argued that OSHA, by not enforcing the temporary standard or issuing a permanent one, was failing to uphold its responsibility to keep workers safe. The Court’s conclusion, however, was that it could not compel OSHA to take such a step. The three-judge panel, according to Reuters, included Neomi Rao, Sri Srinivasan and David Sentelle.
In a statement to Healthcare Dive about the Court’s decision, National Nurses United President Jean Ross called on OSHA to finally adopt a permanent rule. “[W]e will not relent in our efforts to ensure that nurses and all other health care workers have the occupational health and safety protections they need to stay safe during the ongoing pandemic,” she told the publication. “We urge OSHA to issue its promised permanent Covid standard for health care workers as soon as possible.”
More information about the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit’s decision denying a petition to force OSHA to issue a permanent workplace safety standard for Covid-19 is available via Reuters and Healthcare Dive.