Among the flurry of executive orders issued by President Biden as soon as he was inaugurated is one ordering federal worker safety agencies to issue new guidances regarding Covid 19.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mine Safety and Health Administration were directed to come up with new guidances within two weeks and thereafter begin enforcing them.
“Healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the coronavirus pandemic,” Biden said. “It is the policy of my Administration to protect the health and safety of workers from Covid 19.”
What is not clear from the order is how those guidances would differ from those that have already been issued by OSHA, which also has been conducting enforcement actions all along.
The order also requires OSHA to consider issuing Emergency Temporary Standards, which if developed would be published by March 15. Unions have argued that the previous “guidances” lacked the force and power of ETS regulations., which already have been adopted by Michigan, Virginia, California. Oregon and Washington State.
Also directed to take Covid 19 worker safety protection measures are the secretaries of Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Energy, working in conjunction with other federal agencies.
In addition, OSHA is ordered to ensure that workers currently covered by nation’s 22 state OSH plans are adequately protected from Covid 19, consistent with OSHA’s revised guidance or Emergency Temporary Standards.
In those states that do not have such plans, OSHA is expected to consult with state and local government entities with responsibility for public employee safety and health, — and with public employee unions – to bolster protection from Covid 19 for public sector workers.