Leading the fight for safe and healthy workplaces

You are here

Safety Advocates on Delay of OSHA COVID-19 Standard: “Workers Can’t Wait”

Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535; roger@nationalcosh.org

Safety Advocates on Delay of OSHA COVID-19 Standard:
“Workers Can’t Wait”

LOS ANGELES – Leaders of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) expressed grave concern today that the U.S. Department of Labor has delayed issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect tens of millions of workers from COVID-19 infections in the workplace.

“Workers can’t wait,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “We know that workers still face the risk of COVID-19 infections in their workplaces, and we know that these infections can spread to neighborhoods, families and communities.”

On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order requiring the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to review the need for workplace COVID-19 protections, with a target date of March 15th for issuing a new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).

“A mandatory safety standard, requiring a COVID-19 prevention plan that involves workers, is essential to controlling this pandemic and protecting American workers and families,” said Martinez.

“If this desperately-needed regulation comes in two months, that would be a tragedy,” said Debbie Berkowitz, Worker Safety and Health program director at the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Virginia and California have already issued state-level standards that are working.

“The standard needs to be issued within the next few weeks,” she said, noting that an emergency rule would help essential workers, in sectors such as meat and poultry and retail , who continue to get sick and die. “Many of these essential industries are disproportionately workers of color,” Ms. Berkowitz said.

“Vaccines are a great step forward. But right now only one out of five Americans is fully vaccinated -- and many frontline workers have been left out,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH.  “Many industries have high turnover – and it will take longer to vaccinate all workers.”

“Workers have been thrown to wolves, left to fend for themselves, and thousands have died. In Texas, construction workers are already 5 times more likely to be hospitalized by COVID than workers from other industries,” said Emily Timm, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director of the Workers Defense Project  “Our workers have always been essential, but they are treated as sacrificial workers."

***

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National COSH on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.