U.S. employers should take action now to make sure their COVID safety policies and procedures are compliant with CDC guidance. That’s because the incoming Biden administration is expected to quickly issue temporary emergency standards that add more enforcement teeth to current employer COVID safety rules.
Resisting calls for tougher restrictions, the current U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration is using existing standards—specifically OSHA’s “general duty clause”—to enforce employer COVID safety. In the first days after inauguration, look for Biden’s new OSHA leaders to set specific, enforceable nationwide COVID standards for employers on issues like:
- Protective equipment, possibly including masks.
- Hygiene and sanitation
- Social distancing, and requiring remote work when possible.
- Employee training.
- Communication during outbreaks.
It’s still unclear whether OSHA will address the COVID vaccine and employer’s role in encouraging Americans to get the shot. Stepped-up enforcement. During the campaign, Biden called for more aggressive enforcement of worker safety rules and said he would double the number of OSHA inspectors. There are currently about 750 inspectors, down from about 1,000 a decade ago. With a year of hiring and training, expect Biden’s new surge of safety inspectors to be up and running in 2022.
More immediately, the new administration can immediately step up enforcement efforts by inspectors who are already on staff. Employers should plan on more inspections, with citations and fines for unsafe conditions.
Also, don’t be surprised if employee whistleblowing increases in workplaces that have experienced coronavirus infection outbreaks.
Source: Employment Law, January 2021 |