On Thursday, January 21, 2021, President Biden directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) to issue revised guidance for employers regarding COVID-19 safety protections for workers within two weeks. In the Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, the President instructed the agency to increase enforcement of existing rules to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace and explore new standards for businesses to follow during the pandemic.
The Executive Order directs OSHA to examine mask-wearing requirements, partner with state and local governments and offer additional resources to help employers protect their employees. The President advised OSHA to place extra emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
Under the Trump administration, OSHA had taken a relaxed approach to workplace investigations during the pandemic and had announced that there would be few inspections of workplaces aside from those in high-risk activities such as health care and emergency response. Instead, it called on employers to investigate coronavirus-related issues on their own. President Biden’s Executive Order indicates that moving forward, OSHA will play a significant role in mitigating the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace.
The Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety was just one of 10 executive orders that President Biden signed on his second day of office. The other executive orders also relate to the pandemic, including orders compelling agencies to issue guidance for the reopening of schools and to use their powers to accelerate the production of protective equipment, speed up the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and expand access to testing.
We will continue to follow developments relating to the recently issued executive orders and will keep you apprised of same. Should you have any questions about how the mandates will affect your business, please contact ALG.