A week ago, we published an alert explaining the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation’s issuance of a press release announcing that the state has decided to issue a general infectious disease standard as an alternative to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration's COVID-19 emergency temporary standard for the health care industry. The press release did not include any time frame for issuance of the standard. We assumed that under the terms of its state enforcement plan, South Carolina would begin enforcing the federal emergency standard in the meantime.
Following publication of that alert, we were contacted by South Carolina OSHA, which indicated that the alert was in error. The state OSHA representative said that because of its decision to issue a separate standard, the federal emergency standard is not in effect in South Carolina. The representative went on to say that SCOSHA anticipated issuing the new infectious disease standard in the fall.
According to this information, South Carolina health care employers would not be subject to enforcement action for failure to abide by the federal standard. SCOSHA did not indicate whether federal OSHA had reacted to this decision or had taken the position that the decision is inconsistent with the terms of the state plan. The state plan requires South Carolina to implement and enforce safety standards that are at least as effective as those established by federal OSHA.
South Carolina health care employers should contact their legal counsel or SCOSHA with questions relating to their COVID-19 compliance obligations, including applicability of the federal emergency standard to their operations. We regret any misunderstanding caused by the original alert.