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Senators Call on Federal Labor Agency to Invoke Emergency Protocols to Provide & Enforce Safety Standards for All Essential Businesses & Workers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

“The current lack of consistency surrounding the monitoring of symptoms, sanitation practices, personal protective equipment standards, and reporting and communication requirements must be addressed.”

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) called on the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to utilize its emergency enforcement mechanism to require employers to develop and implement comprehensive plans to keep all essential workers who continue to perform their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic safe. The lawmakers asked OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which would provide employers with a consistent roadmap of standards to follow to ensure all employees who continue to come into work across the country are protected, and eventually develop a permanent standard should another such emergency arise in the future.

“As the number of confirmed cases and fatalities related to COVID-19 continue to rise, frontline workers continue to keep desperately needed services in place – providing food, public transit, emergency services, healthcare, and ensuring construction projects move forward – despite the risks associated with exposure to the virus. Many of these workers lack the necessary personal protective equipment and other resources to keep themselves safe,” the senators wrote in a letter to DOL Secretary Eugene Scalia. “The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the immediate need for OSHA to issue such a standard to protect all those who are required to work during this public health emergency from exposure to the coronavirus.”

The senators also called on OSHA to immediately issue an enforcement memo which would allow the agency to conduct on-site enforcement that ensures businesses are at the very least following current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance before the new ETS takes effect. They noted the precedent and framework provided by a similar enforcement memo issued in reaction to the H1N1 influenza in November 2009.

The full letter is available here.