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Not so fast, House Republicans say about OSHA emergency temporary standard on COVID-19

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Washington — A pair of House Republicans are urging the Department of Labor to solicit feedback from business owners and workers before OSHA moves forward with a potential emergency temporary standard related to COVID-19.

In a letter dated Feb. 25 and sent to acting Labor Secretary Al Stewart, Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Fred Keller (R-PA), ranking member of the committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee, also call on OSHA to convene a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel to gather input from small businesses.

The lawmakers say they’re concerned that an ETS “would mandate actions based on a snapshot in time for a disease and public health guidance that is constantly evolving.” They highlight California’s COVID-19 ETS that went into effect in December “as a real-world example.” According to the letter, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had to issue an Executive Order to suspend the ETS “because they conflicted with changes in CDC and California Department of Public Health guidelines concerning the duration of quarantine periods for essential workers, causing massive confusion for employers during the busy holiday season.”

Foxx and Keller “strongly urge OSHA to consider the real-world experiences of employers and their employees, experiences of OSHA State Plans, the evolving nature of the disease and associated public health guidance, and the promising deployment of new vaccines before rushing to enact sweeping new mandates that may create unsound policy with no improvement to workplace safety.”

 

Foxx and Keller direct seven questions at Stewart and request a response by March 11. An Executive Order signed by President Joe Biden on Jan. 21 directed OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to consider ETSs related to COVID-19 and, if determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15.

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