OSHA Thursday released a COVID Emergency Temporary Standard [ETS] for health care workers and guidance for workers, not in a health care setting. OSHA's action comes about a year and a half after the COVID-19 Pandemic began and when over half of the nation's workforce has already the protection of received an initial vaccination.
While the ETS will have reporting and enforcement criteria, the voluntary guidance for other workplaces will not have any legal status or enforcement potential. The majority of workers in the US are employed in a non-healthcare setting.
The confusion of how employers and their insurance companies can adequately safeguard the workplace has now created a legal ambiguity. Workers' Compensation insurance provides only a remedial and statutorily limited recovery basis. Both paid-time-off and medical insurance coverage for COVID-19 claims remain unanswered. All workers should be protected by OSHA through enforceable standards. The civil legal liability for failure to take appropriate precautions and protocols will now create a long, uncertain, and arduous road ahead through litigation. This could have been avoided, and the health of workers fully protected, if OSHA had acted with greater speed and diligence.
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