NSC: OSHA Must Immediately Issue Emergency Temporary Standard to Protect Workers from COVID-19

The National Safety Council will pursue implementation of the standard through legislative, administrative, judicial and public means.

June 11, 2020

Itasca, IL – As businesses across the country send more workers back to traditional operations post-quarantine, they are doing so without a federal standard to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure – even more problematic given 20 states are reporting surges in cases. In response, the National Safety Council is calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to immediately exercise its emergency authority and issue a temporary emergency standard to protect workers during the pandemic and reopening. In a new policy position statement released today, NSC states its intention to compel OSHA to act through legislative, administrative, judicial and public means.

“Employers must know the specific measures they are required to take to protect their workers and the public,” said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. “NSC has been an ardent, strong supporter of OSHA since the agency’s founding, and we have watched it take life-saving actions in the midst of other crisis situations. We expect it will do so again, especially knowing that safety is vital to not only workers’ health, but also to our economic recovery as a nation.”

In the absence of a regulation, OSHA has stated its authority to issue citations to workplaces through the general duty clause from the OSH Act. However, as of May 15, 2020, the agency has not issued any citations citing the general duty clause at workplaces. This is despite worker deaths from COVID-19 and virus transmission hotspots being reported throughout the country, particularly in the meatpacking industry and long-term care facilities.

Issues that should be addressed within a federal standard include but are not limited to:

  • Accessibility to hand-washing in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations
  • Physical distancing requirements following CDC guidelines
  • Facial coverings that may include personal protective equipment (PPE) or cloth facial coverings based on the work environment and risk assessment
  • Utilization of the hierarchy of controls to include engineering and administrative controls and PPE use
  • Workplace COVID-19 symptom screening protocols
  • Workplace response plan development

NSC is issuing the call in the midst of National Safety Month, observed annually to help educate employers about the leading causes of preventable deaths and injuries. Visit nsc.org/nsm for information and materials.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for over 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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