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The Biden administration’s OSHA is expected to move forward with one or more federal COVID-19 temporary workplace safety standards by the end of Q1 2021. The agency may issue a single general industry standard and/or one or more industry-specific standards. Federal standard or standards may be broad like California's emergency temporary standard or more targeted like the approaches taken in Virginia and Michigan.
Last week, the Biden transition team released its American Rescue Plan, which calls on Congress to increase OSHA funding for enforcement and education grants and authorize OSHA to issue a COVID-19 workplace safety standard that covers “a broad set of workers,” including public workers, who currently fall under state law jurisdiction. If the expansion includes teachers, state and local police, and fire and rescue workers, it may raise new issues about federal control over state and local jurisdictions. Additionally, a congressional mandate would make any standard OSHA issues less vulnerable to legal challenge, as OSHA may not need to meet the existing criteria required to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard.
The language in the Plan states on pages 5-6:
Protect workers against COVID-19. Millions of Americans, many of whom are people of color, immigrants, and low-wage workers, continue to put their lives on the line to keep the country functioning through the pandemic. They should not have to lie awake at night wondering if they’ll make it home from work safely the next day, or if they’ll bring home the virus to their loved ones and communities. The president-elect is calling on Congress to authorize the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a COVID-19 Protection Standard that covers a broad set of workers, so that workers not typically covered by OSHA, like many public workers on the frontlines, also receive protection from unsafe working conditions and retaliation. And, President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide additional funding for OSHA enforcement and grant funding, including for the Susan Harwood grant program, for organizations to help keep vulnerable workers healthy and safe from COVID-19. These steps will help keep more workers healthy, reopen more businesses safely, and beat the virus.