On President Biden’s first full day in office, his new administration issued an Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety. This Executive Order can be found at the following hyperlink: Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety | The White House.
One of the specific provisions of the Executive Order required the federal Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, to issue within two (2) weeks revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Order also details, among other provisions, the following requirements: (a) consideration of whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 (including with respect to masks in the workplace) are necessary and issue such standards by March 15, 2021; and (b) review of the enforcement efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) to identify changes that could be implemented to protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement.
With respect to the revised guidance on workplace safety, OSHA has already responded to the Executive Order by posting new guidance on January 29, 2021 – “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.” This guidance can be found at the following hyperlink: Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace | Occupational Safety and Health Administration (osha.gov).
While this guidance document is advisory in nature rather than mandatory, it does provide a glimpse into future OSHA emergency temporary standards that may be issued by March 15, 2021 and that would likely be mandatory. OSHA intends to update this guidance periodically to reflect developments in science, best practices, and standards. Many of the recommendations in this document are not new, but here are a few highlights:
· Employers should implement workplace COVID-19 Prevention Programs, including conducting a hazard assessment
· Employers should assign a workplace coordinator responsible for COVID-19 issues on the employer’s behalf
· Employers should provide guidance on screening and testing
· Employers need to record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths utilizing Form 300 logs if certain specific requirements are met – including that the COVID-19 case is work-related, as defined by the law and regulations
· Employers should provide information and training on the benefits and safety of vaccinations – including making a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to all eligible employees
· Employers should not distinguish between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not
· Employers should provide all workers with face coverings (such as cloth face coverings, surgical masks), unless their work task requires a respirator. Employers should provide face coverings to workers at no cost.
This new focus on OSHA guidance and compliance is likely to result in an increase in investigatory and enforcement activity by the agency and employers may in the near future face enhanced monetary fines and penalties for failing to comply with all updated requirements.
Our Firm has extensive experience counseling employers and businesses on issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions related to this Legal Briefing or questions related to COVID-19 reopening rules and procedures, please contact any member of our Firm at 585-730-4773.
This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2021 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC