Tell OSHA: Health Workers Need Protection Now | Physicians for Human Rights

Tell OSHA: Health Workers Need Protection Now

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U.S. health care workers have been on the front lines day in and day out during this pandemic. It’s high time we pushed for and implemented meaningful protections that will safeguard their human rights and create safer and healthier workplaces.

Send your message to the Acting Administrator James Frederick of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement emergency temporary standards for worker protections in health settings that address personal protective equipment, hand washing and sanitation, and transparency of information, among other issues. Please, take action now – and thank you for your support.

Message
Your Message
Health workers need real, meaningful protection now.
Dear Acting Administrator Frederick,

I write to join Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) in calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement necessary, enforceable, workplace protections for workers in health care settings, and to take urgent action to adjudicate the thousands of COVID-19-related whistleblower complaints.

While we welcome President Biden’s January Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, and OSHA’s revised COVID-19 guidance, we urge you to implement emergency temporary standards for worker protections in health settings that address personal protective equipment, hand washing and sanitation, and transparency of information, among other issues. Such emergency standards should be further codified into a permanent, mandatory safety and health standard.

In health care settings across the country, health workers – including physicians, medical trainees, nurses, technicians, and other health care professionals and caregivers – have faced dangerous working conditions, alarming shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), and little or no enforceable workplace protections. A report recently released by PHR (https://phr.org/our-work/resources/silenced-and-endangered/) surveyed more than 900 health care workers about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that they experienced a lack of adequate resources, fears of retaliation or reprimands from employers and government officials for voicing safety concerns, and a dearth of training or institutional guidelines to assist them in allocating scarce resources for patient care.

Without enforceable workplace protections from OSHA to date, a number of states have implemented their own emergency or permanent standards. These states have mandated the provision of PPE, clear procedures for social distancing and hygiene practices, and extend enhanced whistleblower protections to safeguard health workers’ ability to raise the alarm about dangerous conditions without fear of discrimination or retribution.

Last June, Virginia proposed the country’s first pandemic emergency workplace safety standards, which have since been made permanent. Similarly, California has updated its already-successful state-level health worker protections built on the 2009 California OSHA Aerosol Transmissible Disease Standards, which set clear standards for social distancing; face masks; hand sanitizing, washing, and gloves; regular workplace disinfection; increased ventilation; and notification of infections, among other key provisions.

Such standards must also be accompanied by rigorous enforcement and protection from discrimination, intimidation, or dismissal of health workers for speaking out in the face of dangerous conditions to management, co-workers, the government, the media, or the public. With thousands of unresolved COVID-19-related complaints still pending, we urge your office to move expeditiously to adjudicate the backlog of cases that remain from earlier in the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed the lives of nearly half a million people in the United States. Despite progress, new variants of the virus and potential other challenges mean that worker protections are as crucial as ever. The government must assure protection of workers in health care facilities caring for patients with COVID-19 across this country. We urge you to implement enforceable emergency temporary standards for worker protections without delay, and act quickly to resolve all outstanding COVID-19-related whistleblower complaints.

Sincerely,

[First Name] [Last Name]