On April 27, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration sent a draft OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the Office of Management and Budget for review. The review at OIRA is usually the final step in the process before a rule is officially published, which could take up to two weeks. At this time, neither OIRA nor DOL have made the content of the ETS public, but ABC has requested a meeting with OIRA to discuss its concerns with an OSHA COVID-19 ETS.
On Jan. 21, President Biden issued Executive Order 13999 on Protecting Worker Health and Safety, which directed OSHA to consider whether an ETS is warranted to address COVID-19 in the workplace by March 15. However, U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin Walsh placed the standard on hold so relevant materials could be updated to “reflect the latest scientific analysis of the state of the disease.”
On March 2, ABC, as a member of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition’s steering committee, sent a letter to OSHA Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary James Frederick highlighting CISC’s concerns with potential provisions in a COVID-19 ETS as well as outlining the recommendations that OSHA should consider if it decides to issue a COVID-19 standard. Specifically, CISC stated it is concerned with the possible issuance of an ETS at this time to address COVID-19 in the construction industry, particularly given the sharply declining case counts, the low-risk nature of construction work and the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. CISC is also concerned that certain provisions OSHA might include in a COVID-19 standard would be unworkable in construction and would fail to take into account the unique characteristics of the construction industry. Read the letter.
In addition, on Feb. 12, ABC participated in an OSHA listening session, where the agency sought input on efforts and challenges in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. ABC strongly encouraged OSHA to consider that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 varies widely by industry. ABC also emphasized that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, ABC has taken countless actions to protect members’ employees, because health and safety is a foundational pillar of ABC and has been throughout its 70-year history. For example, in March 2020, ABC, as a member of CISC, developed a construction-specific COVID-19 Exposure Prevention Preparedness and Response Plan, which is designed to assist contractors in their COVID-19 prevention efforts. This document has taken into account changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA and subsequently has been updated four times to stay relevant to the changing landscape of this pandemic.
ABC and the construction industry remain committed to collaborating with federal, state and local officials, as well as across market sectors, to ensure our workforce goes home in the same or better condition at the end of every shift every day.
ABC will continue to monitor this issue closely and provide updates Newsline.