Press Release

Nurses applaud OSHA for acting to enforce Covid health care standard in noncompliant states Arizona, Utah, South Carolina

NNU old photo of group of NNU nurses holding banner in front of US Capitol "The National Voice for Direct-Care RNs"

National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the United States, today applauded the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for taking a critical step in protecting health care workers in Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah who had been left behind when their states failed to adopt the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on Covid-19 in Health Care issued in June. The OSHA ETS on Covid-19 mandates optimal PPE and other critical protections for health care workers.

Twenty-two states across the country that have state-based OSHA programs are legally required to have those state plans be at least as effective as federal OSHA. When Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah failed to implement the Covid-19 ETS in their state plans, however, they abrogated their legal requirements. Federal OSHA announced today that it is reconsidering and potentially revoking the final approval for these three noncompliant states.

“It’s unconscionable that some states think they can just ignore their responsibility to protect health care workers. Registered nurses had been demanding the OSHA ETS since day one of this pandemic, and we finally won our fight in June of 2021. At that point, Arizona, South Carolina, and Utah had the duty—legally and morally—to come into compliance and protect workers. They did not, and we could not be more proud that OSHA is standing up to hold them accountable today,” said NNU President Deborah Burger, RN. “We are beyond grateful to OSHA for the work they are already doing to enforce this standard, and to the Biden administration for standing up for nurses on the front lines of this pandemic.”

After leading the campaign to win the OSHA ETS, NNU has been campaigning to ensure health care employers across the country comply. When NNU nurses in Arizona filed complaints about their hospitals’ non-compliance, Arizona’s state OSHA plan stated they will not enforce the requirements of the federal OSHA ETS. So NNU nurses testified at the most recent meeting of the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA). The ICA voted against emergency rulemaking needed to protect nurses and other health care workers, and NNU filed a Complaint About State Plan Administration (CAPSA) with federal OSHA.

“Nurses and other health care workers in Arizona, Utah, and South Carolina must be assured the same protections as they would receive in other states that have already adopted and begun enforcing the ETS,” said Burger. “We urge federal OSHA to act expeditiously to put in place the necessary elements for federal OSHA to resume enforcement in Arizona, Utah, South Carolina, and any other states which fail to enforce the ETS to ensure protections for health care workers. We will never emerge from this pandemic if we don’t make sure nurses and health care workers are safe at work.”

National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union of registered nurses in the United States with more than 175,000 members nationwide.