OSHA Preparing Emergency National COVID-19 Rule

Temporary safety standard would require adherence from all employers

April 15, 2021

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is  close to releasing an emergency national temporary standard to protect workers from contracting COVID-19 on the job according to lawyers tracking OSHA’s efforts, Bloomberg Law reports.

The lawyers said the OSHA COVID-19 emergency temporary standard may be made public later this month.

OSHA has cited hundreds of employers for COVID-19 violations since the coronavirus pandemic began last year. There are currently 28 state-approved plans to help protect workers from contracting COVID-19 on the job, according to OSHA’s website. However, there is no federal OSHA emergency rule to be followed by employers nationwide. Efforts by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration to draft the OSHA standard ran behind schedule, according to Politico.

Unions, activists, and other advocates have been asking for a national OSHA standard to protect workers from the coronavirus since the Trump administration was in charge last year. As new cases of COVID-19 increase even though more Americans are getting vaccinated, legal issues could arise for a national OSHA standard, Bloomberg Law reported earlier this month.

Travis Vance, a Charlotte, North Carolina-based lawyer who co-leads national workplace safety practices at Fisher Phillips LLP, told Bloomberg Law, “The federal standard is going to look a lot like the Virginia plan.” Likewise, Conn Maciel Carey, a Washington employment law firm with a coalition of businesses and trade groups, is advocating for the federal OSHA emergency temporary standard to follow Virginia’s OSHA model.

Eric Conn, chairman of the firm, told Bloomberg Law, “Virginia OSHA has promulgated a flexible rule that allows employers to adjust with the evolving guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the scientific community. The Virginia rule is just as effective as the California rule, which is generally inflexible and much more onerous.”

Vance and Conn said there is one provision in the federal OSHA that will be added—a requirement to make sure employees have free access to the vaccine, by paying for their time and reimbursing their expenses.

Bloomberg Law contacted OSHA for verification, but the agency did not say whether it is planning to issue a national COVID-19 emergency temporary standard or what it would contain. “OSHA has been working diligently, as appropriate, to consider what standards may be necessary and is taking the time to get this right,” the OSHA spokesperson said in a statement.

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