Research/studies Workplace exposures

Survey of employers finds mixed feelings about a potential emergency temporary standard on COVID-19

Photo: sodafish/iStockphoto

Neenah, WI — A recent survey of employers found nearly half are “middle of the road” about whether an emergency temporary standard related to COVID-19 from OSHA is needed.

An Executive Order signed by President Joe Biden on Jan. 21 requires OSHA to consider an ETS related to COVID-19. If an ETS is considered necessary, the order directs the agency to issue one by March 15.

In February, the research arm of J. J. Keller & Associates Inc. – a provider of regulatory, safety and compliance solutions – surveyed more than 600 employers to measure their “comfort and concern” regarding a potential ETS. When asked to respond to the statement, “I believe a federal COVID-19 mandate is necessary to protect workers,” 47% were “middle of the road.” One-quarter of the respondents “completely” agreed with the statement, while 28% disagreed.

Most of the respondents (80%) said they were very familiar or somewhat familiar with the potential ETS – an indication that they anticipate any new standard will be similar to current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA. A little more than half of the respondents (51%) are concerned about cost and impacts to productivity as a result of an ETS. Between 40% and 45% of the respondents cited other challenges such as:

  • Keeping up with changing COVID-19 guidance
  • Conflicts between current and future guidance
  • Conflicts between federal, state and local mandates
  • Training workers to comply with mandates
  • Opening up the organization to potential lawsuits based on technicalities

“A common criticism employers expressed is that they have already implemented the expected requirements, per local or state regulations,” a J. J. Keller press release states.

Nearly all of the respondents (98%) have taken steps to curb the spread of COVID-19, such as requiring the use of facemasks, adding cleaning protocol and making hand sanitizers available. Fewer (67%) have trained workers on COVID-19 prevention – a step that may a potential ETS may require.

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