My opinion (not legal advice, or formal engineering or OH&S advice) is that medical personnel who choose to work in a COVID-19 environment are going above and beyond the call of duty. With regard to employers who tell health care workers they cannot wear even their own PPE, however,
Workers' Right to Refuse Dangerous Work
If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, we recommend that you bring the conditions to your employer's attention, if possible.
You may file a complaint with OSHA concerning a hazardous working condition at any time. However, you should not leave the worksite merely because you have filed a complaint. If the condition clearly presents a risk of death or serious physical harm, there is not sufficient time for OSHA to inspect, and, where possible, you have brought the condition to the attention of your employer, you may have a legal right to refuse to work in a situation in which you would be exposed to the hazard. (OSHA cannot enforce union contracts that give employees the right to refuse to work.)
Your right to refuse to do a task is protected if all of the following conditions are met:
Where possible, you have asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so; and
You refused to work in "good faith." This means that you must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists; and
A reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and
There isn't enough time, due to the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.
You should take the following steps:
Ask your employer to correct the hazard, or to assign other work;
Tell your employer that you won't perform the work unless and until the hazard is corrected; and
Remain at the worksite until ordered to leave by your employer.
If your employer retaliates against you for refusing to perform the dangerous work, contact OSHA immediately. Complaints of retaliation must be made to OSHA within 30 days of the alleged reprisal. To contact OSHA call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and ask to be connected to your closest area office. No form is required to file a discrimination complaint, but you must call OSHA.
An ethical issue arises here that does not exist in workplaces that are just making a product for money, as a health care provider's refusal to perform dangerous work means patients will not get the care they need. In addition, failure to provide adequate PPE is due to force majeure as opposed to an employer intentionally cutting corners or not caring about safety. My position is that all doctors, nurses, and others who risk exposure to this disease deserve enormous credit (and collectively, the nation's civilian counterpart of the Medal of Honor), but any hospital or other system that intentionally cuts corners, or tells people to not wear their own PPE if none else is available, should be reported to OSHA.