Biden Administration Focuses on Workplace Safety
As the Biden administration continues to review and roll out executive orders and policies, safety and compliance of workers remains a high priority. And, it is expected that the administration will keep safety and OSHA compliance a top priority for the next four years with increased OSHA inspections.
As a first step, on January 21, 2021, President Biden enacted an Executive Order, “On Protecting Worker Health and Safety,” that leads the way for COVID-19 protection and prevention requirements in the workplace. The new administration is taking OSHA compliance and workplace safety very seriously and imparting increased vigilance to keep workers safe. Additionally, workplace compliance and reporting remain a major priority and focus of this order.
The Biden administration’s executive order seeks to reorient worker safety guidelines and enforcement at the Labor Department’s workplace safety division — the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The order asked OSHA to consider a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) by March 15, 2021. An ETS would require employers in all states to implement protection and prevention measures including conducting risk assessments, implementing a prevention plan, identifying testing measures, instituting employee pay and leave, recordkeeping and reporting requirements, and more. The determination did not happen on March 15th, however, OSHA issued their updated covid guidance on January 29th in accordance with President Biden’s executive order. The recommendations are advisory in nature, informational in content, and are intended to assist employers in recognizing and abating hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm as a result of COVID-19.
Further, on March 12th, OSHA created a National Emphasis Program to ensure that employees in high-hazard industries or work tasks are protected from contracting COVID-19. Targeted inspections of workplaces have already started under this NEP.
Implication of the Biden Executive Order and OSHA NEP
One of the key provisions in the Executive Order is section C, which mandates a review of the enforcement efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 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 is widely believed that the number of OSHA inspectors will increase substantially under the Biden administration. Currently, OSHA has approximately 1,850 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers, employed at more than 8 million worksites around the nation. With an increased number of inspectors, expectations are that there will be more broad and frequent worksite visits/inspections. The wording of the Executive Order is specific to COVID-19 mitigation, however inspectors are not limited to COVID related safety reporting while visiting a job site.
Safety First, Safety Always
In anticipation of greater enforcement efforts from OSHA during the next four years, you should continue to provide safe workplaces for your employees and invest resources into identifying and eliminating all workplace safety hazards at your worksite.
Workplace safety enforcement will be more aggressive and robust under an OSHA governed by a Biden administration. Employers should take actions now to ensure that their safety and health programs are compliant.
CCI can assist you with ensuring your workplace is compliant and can also help you through an OSHA inspection. Contact us today to learn how we can support you in your safety and compliance efforts.