Health

New federal COVID-19 safety rules exempt most employers

In a file photo on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, healthcare professionals are watching a rally of nurses from the New York Presbyterian Church and the New York State Nurses Association on Mount Sinai from an elevated location at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. The Byden administration has exempted most employers from the long-awaited rules for protecting workers from the coronavirus and has offended labor advocates who have lobbyed for more than a year to protect them. The Ministry of Labor has included only healthcare workers in the new emergency temporary standards published on Thursday, June 10, 2021.Credits: AP Photo / Mary Altaffer, File

The Byden administration exempted most employers from the long-awaited rules to protect workers from the coronavirus and angered labor advocates who spent more than a year lobbying for protection.

Only the Ministry of Labor is included Health care workers With the new emergency temporary standards announced on Thursday.

The rule requires employers to develop antivirus plans and tighten requirements for recording and reporting COVID-19 cases among workers. Employers are also demanding that workers be provided with paid leave for COVID-19-related absences, such as being vaccinated or recovering from the side effects of shots.

The Biden administration has released new non-binding guidance that relaxes some recommendations rather than issuing mandatory rules to other workplaces. According to guidance issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency responsible for worker protection, most workplaces where people are fully vaccinated no longer need to provide protection from the coronavirus.Separately orderThe Biden government also maintained a flexible remote work policy, but raised a 25% cap on employment capacity within federal buildings.

This decision was made because many stores and other businesses have already relaxed masks and other protection policies in response to new guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it also represents a step from President Joe Biden’s earlier remarks that the Trump administration refused to issue compulsory protection rules for workers.

The new standard “represents the breach of promises to millions of American workers in grocery stores and meat packaging factories who died of illness at the forefront of this pandemic,” said 1.3. Mark Peronne, chairman of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, on behalf of the United States, said. In a statement, one million workers said.

Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA employee currently working on the National Employment Law project, said the new rules could not protect many low-wage workers, including slaughterhouse employees who work side-by-side on the production line. It was.

“We’re happy that OSHA is finally working to protect health care workers, but we’re disappointed that we couldn’t protect all the other workers at risk,” Berkowitz said. ..

When Biden signed an executive order shortly after taking office and ordered OSHA to issue rules until March 15, he raised expectations for urgent standards for all workplaces. However, the Ministry of Labor missed that deadline, the situation surrounding the pandemic changed, vaccination rates increased, and the CDC relaxed its own guidance on distance and masking.

Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh quoted changed reality and new CDC guidance at a House Education and Labor Commission hearing on Tuesday.

OSHA had no workplace rules for navigating disease outbreaks on a pandemic scale. While some state agencies have issued temporary emergency standards, the Trump administration has only issued guidance on how employers can protect workers.

Labor advocates wanted to show Biden’s commitment to strengthening OSHA with new federal standards. OSHA has been criticized for conducting inspections and issuing citations for COVID-related complaints.

In a statement, US Congressman Bobby Scott, Democratic Chairman of the House Education and Labor Commission, criticized the new standard as “too few, too late for countless workers and families across the country.”

OSHA said the standard, which will come into force for six months, is justified for health care workers because the virus poses a “grave risk” to health care workers. Authorities said nearly 500,000 health workers were infected with the virus as of May 24, of which more than 1,600 died.

Jonathan Snare, former Deputy Executive Secretary of OSHA during the George W. Bush administration, proved that the situation poses a “grave danger” when federal observers issue urgent temporary standards. He said he had to. Snare, a partner at Philadelphia-based global law firm Morgan Lewis, said the Biden administration could face legal challenges from other workplaces as it imposes strict regulations when the pandemic begins to recede. He said he felt there was.

However, many employers have wanted a set of firm rules since the outbreak of the pandemic, said Brian Klopp, head of HR operations at consulting firm Gartner. According to Klopp, the latest non-binding guidance adds to the uncertainty, especially for companies addressing the question of when and how to return employees to the office.

For example, very few companies plan to ask their employees about their vaccination status before returning to work. As a result, it is difficult for companies to determine whether they can lower safety standards for vaccinated employees, Klopp said. The new guidelines state that employers need to stay away and provide masks to unvaccinated workers, customers and visitors.

“Employers want simplicity and clarity, and the strict rules they can follow,” Klopp said. “This allows us to say that we are following the rules, rather than having a difficult conversation with our employees about one set of activities and another. That allows them to pay.”


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