WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 27, 2021 – United States Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) led a group of colleagues in urging the Biden administration to issue the delayed Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to finally provide workers with enforceable health and safety protections specific to COVID-19. On Monday, the Department of Labor (DOL) sent safety standards to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review.
OSHA has the statutory authority to issue an ETS to take immediate effect if workers are exposed to grave danger from exposure to hazards and an emergency standard is necessary to protect workers from the hazard. On his first day in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order (EO) on Protecting Worker Health and Safety. The EO called on the Department of Labor (DOL) and OSHA to consider whether any ETS on COVID-19, including masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards were determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021. The standard has still not been issued.
“More than a month has now passed since your deadline for issuing an ETS. The consequences of each day of delay are dire – and potentially fatal – for frontline workers who have toiled without enforceable health or safety standards specific to COVID-19 since the beginning of this pandemic,” the lawmakers wrote.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of thousands of essential workers have become sick, and many have died, after being exposed at their workplaces. In the food industry alone, an estimated nearly 90,000 workers tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 383 have died from the disease. A majority of essential workers are at increased risk for severe COVID-19.
“An ETS will prevent additional, unnecessary worker illnesses and deaths due to COVID-19. We urge you to issue this necessary standard without further delay,” the lawmakers wrote.
In addition to Senators Brown, Warren, Baldwin and Duckworth, the letter was signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Corey Booker (D-NJ), Mark Warner (D-VA), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bernard Sanders (I-VT) and Tina Smith (D-MN).