USW demands action, accountability from OSHA as health care workers struggle with coronavirus exposure

Last month, a coalition of unions, including the USW, called upon the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an enforceable emergency standard to better protect front-line health care workers. Now, a bill is working its way through Congress to turn that call into a law.

The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 6559), introduced by Representative Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA), would require OSHA to enforce standards of action that health care employers must take in order to protect their workers from exposure to the coronavirus.

“Our union was founded on a principle of a safe workplace, and the United States has an obligation to protect all workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis,” said USW International President Thomas M. Conway in a letter of support to the U.S House of Representatives on April 27. “Facing illness and even death from on-the-job exposure to COVID-19, our members and the country’s essential workers are in dire need of protection from potential infections in the workplace.”

The bill would require the enforceable standard to be issued within seven days and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report issues or use their own PPE when their employer fails to provide it.

This legislative push comes after a recent CNN investigation discovered records showing that inadequate infection control is one of the primary reasons behind the surge of fatal COVID-19 cases, particularly in nursing homes.

Routine health and safety inspections were suspended by the federal government to protect against any additional exposure to workers and residents, but this has resulted in increased cases of abuse and lack of communication from facility operators. OSHA only recently began launching investigations after news of this surge in cases was revealed.

To read the USW letter sent to Congress in support of this bill, click here

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