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President Joe Biden on Thursday signed an executive order calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to within two weeks release revised guidance on COVID-19 safety for workers and consider whether the workforce needs an emergency temporary standard on COVID-19.
The order calls for OSHA to issue a standard, which would come with fines for employers who violate the rules, by March 15, if it is “determined to be necessary.”
OSHA as of Jan. 11 had issued $3.9 million in coronavirus-related fines following more than 300 workplace inspections since the start of the pandemic, mainly citing violations of the general duty clause. The agency lacks an infectious disease standard, which has been in the works since 2010, in the fallout over the Swine Flu pandemic.
The executive order also calls on OSHA to review enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 and “identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement.”
It also directs the agency to focus COVID-19-related enforcement efforts on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles.
The executive order calls on OSHA to coordinate with the Department of Labor’s Office of Public Affairs and Office of Public Engagement and all regional OSHA offices to create a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives of their rights. The campaign should include engagement with labor unions, community organizations and industries and “place a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic,” the order states.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has updated its inspection program to target workplaces with the highest rates of injuries and illnesses, the agency announced Wednesday.