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COVID-19 pandemic: Biden signs Executive Order directing OSHA, MSHA to consider emergency temporary standards

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Photo: Adam Schultz/Biden for President

Washington — President Joe Biden on Jan. 21 signed an Executive Order directing OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to consider emergency temporary standards related to COVID-19, among other steps.

If those emergency temporary standards are considered necessary, the Executive Order, titled Protecting Worker Health and Safety, calls on the agencies to issue them by March 15.

The EO also directs OSHA to publish updated or revised COVID-19 guidance within two weeks and review its enforcement efforts, according to the Biden administration’s National Strategy for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.

Additionally, the EO paves the way for the launch of a National Emphasis Program on COVID-19 “to focus enforcement resources on workplace violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk.”

“Further, the Small Business Administration will work with the Department of Labor to disseminate updated OSHA guidance on worker safety and support businesses in implementing the updated guidance,” the strategic document states. This will include a multilingual outreach campaign.

 

The EO also directs OSHA to coordinate with State Plan states to protect workers not covered by the federal agencies and to consult with state/local governments and/or public sector unions on how best to protect workers in the public sector.

Finally, the order calls on the departments of Agriculture, Transportation, and Health and Human Services, among others, to protect workers not covered under OSHA or MSHA.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued a statement on the “overdue and desperately needed” EO: “We applaud this swift action that will save lives and protect workers who face dangerous conditions daily while serving our communities. Strong enforceable standards would require employers to develop workplace safety plans, implement science-based protection measures, train workers and report outbreaks.”

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