Democrats Introduce Legislation to Protect Health Care Workers Against COVID-19

March 10, 2020
Press Release

As originally released by the Committee on Education & Labor

WASHINGTON, DC  Chairman Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Rep. Donna Shalala (FL-27) were joined by 19 House Democrats in introducing legislation to protect the safety of health care workers caring for patients with the coronavirus. The COVID-19 Worker Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 6139) would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to ensure health care facilities implement comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans to keep front line health care workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issue guidance to protect health care workers, the guidance is not binding and OSHA currently has no enforceable standard to protect workers from airborne infectious diseases, leaving the nation’s health care workers at an elevated risk of exposure to the coronavirus at a time when they are needed most.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives the Department of Labor the authority to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard if employees are exposed to grave danger from new hazards. However, despite recent calls from Committee Democrats to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, the Department has not indicated any plan to protect health care workers from COVID-19.

As we enter into what is likely to be the greatest infectious disease crisis this country has faced in over a century, it is in the national interest that OSHA be on the forefront of protecting workers essential to the country’s health care system,” wrote Chairman Scott and Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12) in a letter to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia on March 5If health care workers are quarantined in large numbers, or get ill or die, or fear coming to work due to the risks, it’s not just a personal or workplace problem, it’s a national public health disaster.”

The COVID-19 Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2020 directs OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard within 30 days that sets requirements for how workplaces must safeguard health care workers against the spread of the coronavirus. A permanent standard must follow.

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Adams (NC-12), Rep. Rose (NY-11), Rep. Courtney (CT-02), Rep. Trahan, (MA-03), Rep. Bonamici (OR-01), Rep. Wild (PA-07), Rep. Levin (MI-09), Rep. Grijalva (AZ-03), Rep. Davis (CA-53), Rep. Morelle (NY-25), Rep. Jayapal (WA-07), Rep. Trone (MD-06), Rep. Takano (CA-41), Rep. Fudge (OH-11), Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11), Rep. Sablan (MP-At-Large), Rep. Hayes (CT-05), Rep. Norcross (NJ-01), Rep. Lee (NV-03).

To read the bill text for the COVID-19 Worker Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 6139), click here.

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