Federal agencies Workplace exposures

No timetable for emergency temporary standard on COVID-19: Walsh

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Marty Walsh testifying
Photo: House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee

Washington — OSHA has no target date for issuing an emergency temporary standard related to COVID-19, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh testified during an April 28 hearing convened by the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee.

Two days before the hearing, the agency submitted for review a draft of the ETS to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs – one of the final steps before the ETS can be published in the Federal Register. That action came more than three months after President Joe Biden signed an Executive Order that directed OSHA to consider such an ETS and, if considered necessary, issue it by March 15.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee, asked Walsh if the meatpacking industry was behind the delay.

“The short answer to your question is … they are not behind this,” Walsh said. “The OIRA process can vary, but we can’t give you a predicted deadline.”

During his first public appearance before House legislators since his confirmation March 22, Walsh also said OSHA has a deficit of about 200 inspectors.

“Right now, quite honestly, we don’t have enough inspectors to be able to inspect every single complaint that comes into OSHA or anything in the Department of Labor,” he said. “So we have to build up our strength.”

 

The president’s discretionary budget request for fiscal year 2022 includes $2.1 billion for DOL’s worker protection agencies – a $304 million increase from the FY 2021 budget. The request also calls for a $1.7 billion budget increase for DOL, to $14.1 billion.

“What we’re talking about today are not just budget numbers to me,” Walsh said. “I know they’re not to you either. People’s lives and dreams are at stake. Right now, our country’s future needs these protections.”

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