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AFL-CIO calls on OSHA to create temp standard for pandemics

Posted On: Mar. 6, 2020 11:11 AM CST


The AFL-CIO is calling on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from the potential coronavirus pandemic and future infectious agents.

The Washington-based AFL-CIO, which represents union workers nationwide, issued a statement Friday warning of the potential for a deadly pandemic. It said current estimates show that more than 19 million workers in the United States would be at elevated risk of exposure to coronavirus in the event of a widespread outbreak — “a significant portion of whom could become infected and die.”

“These are the workers who answer the call when an outbreak occurs and they deserve to have confidence that the appropriate resources, equipment, training and protocols are readily available in their workplaces to protect themselves, as well as to avoid infecting other people, including patients, co-workers, the public and their families when they go home,” the statement says. “OSHA has the obligation to ensure the health and safety of all working people, particularly from an infectious disease such as this coronavirus.”

Currently, there is no OSHA standard or “basic regulatory framework” that comprehensively addresses an employer’s responsibility to protect workers from infectious diseases, the AFL-CIO said.

OSHA has posted information on its website for employers interested in existing standards that could apply to coronavirus, including standards on personal protective equipment and the general duty clause, which calls for employers to provide a safe place for workers.

Legal experts this week said many employers face uncertainty when it comes to the potential for a pandemic.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.