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The March 15 deadline passed without the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration delivering details of an expected emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 workplace safety, as it had been directed to do under an executive order.
Meanwhile, numerous labor groups have publicly stated that a standard is still in the works, and an OSHA spokeswoman said the agency would be “taking the time to get this right” but did not provide further details of an extended timeline.
President Joe Biden on Jan. 21 signed an executive order calling on OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard if “determined to be necessary,” among other safety guidelines. Such emergency standards have already been put in place in California, Michigan, Oregon and Virginia.
When questioned about the deadline, a White House spokeswoman said in a media briefing on March 15 that “OSHA has been working diligently, but we, of course, believe they should have the time to get it right and time to ensure it’s right, and so we’re waiting for them to make a conclusion.”
Several experts said the delay was no surprise.
“The issues and consequences of this emergency standard are so big that they could not get it done on time,” said Gary Pearce, Waterford, Michigan-based chief risk architect at risk and analytics company Aclaimant Inc. “What the ETS does is bypass two to three years of rulemaking and compresses it down to something that is immediate,” he said.
The new standard “is a given,” said Eric Conn, Washington-based founding partner of Conn Maciel Carey LLP. “It’s not a question of whether; it’s a question of when.”
Employers nationwide and those managing workplace safety have had their eyes on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which in accordance with directives from the Biden administration has been making guidance and enforcement changes to better protect workers from COVID-19.