Biden to Put Worker Protection First

In a statement on January 13th, President-Elect Biden said, “Today, in the midst of a global pandemic, OSHA has been prevented from using its full range of tools to protect workers from COVID-19….I will direct OSHA to enforce worker safety requirements, target the worst violators, and work to increase the number of OSHA inspectors to get the job done.”

Biden’s statement did not address specifics. Measures that have been discussed include mandatory social distancing and wearing of protective equipment.

Biden will ask the Occupational Health and Safety Administration to issue emergency rules on COVID safety for workers—something it has refused to do so far.

OSHA came under criticism in the early stages of the pandemic for failing to use its authority to impose an emergency temporary standard on manufacturers. The agency can authorize such standards in extreme cases, in advance of permanent standards. A labor union went to court to force OSHA to do so, but the court declined to intervene.

OSHA issued “guidance” to businesses related to the pandemic, including plans for on-site inspections, but did not make any of them mandatory.