On Jan. 21, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order on protecting worker health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic. The order directs the Department of Labor (DOL) and OSHA to protect workers from COVID-19 under the OSH Act and to protect other categories of workers.
This Legal Update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.
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Protecting Workers From COVID-19 Under the OSH Act
The order directs the DOL and OSHA to take the following actions:
- Issue revised guidance for employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic within two weeks of the date of the order.
- Issue any necessary emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, by March 15, 2021.
- Identify any short-, medium- and long-term changes that could be made to OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19, to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement.
- Launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles.
- Conduct a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives of their rights under applicable law.
Protecting Other Categories of Workers From COVID-19
The DOL and OSHA must also:
- Work with OSHA-approved state plans to ensure that workers covered by such plans are adequately protected from COVID-19, consistent with any revised guidance or emergency temporary standards issued by OSHA.
- Work with state and local governments, and other agencies, to ensure that workers not covered by the OSH Act are protected by adequate safety standards.
Action Items for Employers
- Continue to follow the current OSHA guidelines until there are any changes.
- Stay informed of any changes that occur in the coming weeks.
- Be prepared to implement any changes to OSHA requirements by the applicable effective dates.