ABC Tells OSHA Not to Expand COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard to Construction

On Aug. 20, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, of which ABC is a steering committee member, submitted comments in response to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Occupational Exposure to COVID-19; Emergency Temporary Standard interim final rule

CISC’s comments support OSHA’s determination not to include the construction industry within the scope of the rule. In the comments, CISC stated that the construction industry has been consistently characterized as low risk for exposure to COVID-19 by OSHA and other regulatory agencies. Furthermore, the construction industry has been at the forefront of efforts to implement proactive mitigation measures specific to COVID-19. Any attempts by OSHA to expand the ETS to cover construction is not supported by the evidence and would be impermissible under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The comment letter discusses the following:

  1. The proactive measures taken by CISC and the construction industry to address COVID-19 in construction. 
  2. The process that OSHA has undertaken to develop the ETS and how applying the ETS to the construction industry without engaging the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health and specifically raising construction-specific issues in the ETS would be inappropriate and unlawful. 
  3. How and why the construction industry is low risk and thus applying the ETS to the construction industry would be impermissible. 
  4. How it would be inappropriate to apply the requirements of the ETS, the vast majority of which would be inapplicable to the construction work environment, in the construction industry. 
  5. How OSHA’s anti-retaliation paragraph permitting OSHA to pursue Citations and Notifications of Penalty for alleged retaliation is unlawful and impermissible under the OSH Act.

Read CISC’s comment letter to learn more.

In addition to CISC, ABC submitted comments to OSHA as steering committee member of the Coalition for Workplace Safety.

On June 10, OSHA announced the long-awaited COVID-19 Healthcare Emergency Temporary Standard. The ETS focuses requirements on healthcare workers who are most likely to have contact with someone infected with COVID-19. The ETS establishes new requirements for settings where employees provide healthcare or health care support services, including skilled nursing homes and home healthcare, with some exemptions for healthcare providers who screen out patients who may have COVID-19. 

“OSHA made the right decision to issue an ETS to cover tasks associated with high exposure risk levels and not construction operations, which are generally low risk,” said CISC in a June 10 statement. “Workplace safety and health are top priorities for members of CISC. At the outset of the pandemic, the coalition developed an industry-wide COVID-19 Exposure Prevention Preparedness and Response Plan to provide a comprehensive approach to keeping construction workers, deemed to be essential, safe.”

Visit OSHA for additional resources on COVID-19, including updated Aug. 13 guidance on Mitigation and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace

Any further updates on the OSHA COVID-19 ETS will be included in Newsline.