The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard for the health care industry takes effect July 6. However, states that enforce their own OSHA programs have different timetables for evaluating and implementing the standard. Last week, North Carolina OSHA posted information on its website regarding its consideration of the new ETS:
“Federal OSHA recently released text of an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 for Healthcare and it is currently under review by the NC OSH Division. State Plan OSHA Programs, such as NC, have 15 days from the date the ETS is published in the Federal Register to notify OSHA of their intent to either adopt the ETS verbatim, adopt a modified version of the ETS, or adopt a NC-specific ETS that is deemed to be at least as effective. After the review is completed and a decision is made, the OSH Division has 30 days to issue an ETS. The OSH Division will also update guidance information on our COVID-19 webpages accordingly. More information on the ETS can be found on Federal OSHA's COVID-19 Healthcare ETS webpage.”
This means that for North Carolina health care employers, the emergency rules may not take effect until August. Under its state plan authorization, North Carolina (like other states) must adopt safety rules at least as effective as those issued by federal OSHA. However, as indicated in the note, NCOSHA may modify the federal standard or adopt an alternative approach. North Carolina health care employers should monitor this situation to determine when and how their compliance obligations will be determined.