Biden orders OSHA to beef up Covid workplace safety standards and enforcement

Among the flurry of executive orders issued by President Joe Biden in his first days in office last week was a requirement for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue new "science-based" guidelines for Covid-safe workplaces.

The order, signed on 21 January, also calls for a review of OSHA’s enforcement regime, and for a publicity blitz to teach workers their rights under safety law. 

Biden’s choice of Labor Secretary, sitting Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (pictured), must issue via the OSHA revised guidance to employers on Covid workplace safety within two weeks, and to consider whether any emergency temporary standards including masks in the workplace are necessary and, if so, to issue those standards by 15 March.

Walsh must also review OSHA’s enforcement efforts on Covid safety and identify any changes that would protect workers better.

Biden ordered OSHA to focus is enforcement efforts on violations that put the largest number of workers at risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles.

The order furthermore calls on the Department of Labor to launch a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers of their rights under safety law through regional OSHA offices.

"This campaign shall include engagement with labor unions, community organizations, and industries, and place a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic," Biden’s order said.

Under former president Donald Trump, the OSHA was criticised for holding back on Covid workplace safety, reports The New York Times. 

Image: Joe Biden’s pick for Labor Secretary, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, would have oversight of OSHA (Photograph from the Mayor’s Office, Boston)


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