In late October, a group of labor unions representing health care, education and municipal employees filed a lawsuit in the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco charging the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the US Secretary of Labor has “failed to protect workers from infectious diseases.”

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals and the Washington State Nurses Association joined forces to file the suit asking the court to “compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.” The coalition says that they asked OSHA to create a standard more than 10 years ago writing, “even before the COVID-19 pandemic, infectious diseases caused 1.7 million health care-associated infections every year in the United States. These infections are dangerous, and some can be fatal (e.g., tuberculosis, bacterial meningitis, or Ebola). OSHA acknowledged this risk and began the rulemaking process to issue a responsive standard.”

The group further claims that in 2016, OSHA was “on the verge of issuing the necessary standard and projected its completion in 2017. Instead, after a change in administration, OSHA shelved the rulemaking altogether and has refused to carry out its statutory obligations — even in the midst of the deadliest pandemic in a century, which conservative estimates show has infected over 190,000 health care workers in the US and claimed more than 770 of their lives. OSHA’s decade-long delay is unreasonable and unlawful.” ■