With new leadership at the U.S. Department of Labor and OSHA and the Biden administration signaling a return to more regulatory and compliance oversight, our panel of experts have been invited to explore how enforcement and regulatory action might change and what EHS professionals should be doing to prepare.
Join us on April 7th from 10:00–10:45 am EDT “OSHA under Biden.” Our panelists include Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader—Safety & Health, Intelex, Travis Vance, Partner, Fisher & Phillips LLP and Jennifer Debias, Director of Business Development – North America, RegScan. Our moderator is Jonna Pedersen, Senior Manager, Customer Success, Intelex.
Scott recently sat down to answer some questions about the OSHA Under Biden session. Here’s what he had to say:
Why is the topic of interest to you, and why is it important to EHSQ professionals and Expert Connect attendees?
Immediately upon taking office, President Biden did a couple of things that may have set the tone for his administration. The first was to draft an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to give enforceable guidance for the control of COVID-19 in the workplace. Second, he picked James Frederick, a former safety official from the United Steelworkers, to lead OSHA. I believe it set the stage for a greater focus on worker safety using regulation and enforcement. It is a timely topic for the safety professional because we need to understand if there are key program areas we need to strengthen and what else we might expect from the Biden Administration.
What do you think EHS professionals need to know?
We need to understand how to prepare the workplace quickly to control COVID-19 and the possible targeted inspection areas we might expect due to the COVID-19 ETS. Longer term, the current administration clearly supports increasing OSHA’s authority. Understanding how the agency will change during the remainder of the Biden administration comparative to the last one is beneficial for the practitioner.
What do you think might occur as OSHA ramps up with its first administrator in four years?
As an EHS Leader for over 30 years, I’ve experienced three Democratic and three Republican presidential administrations. I have often found more enforcement action and increased regulatory activity during Democratic administrations. During Republican administrations, there’s usually a perception of less punitive enforcement activity and decreased regulatory activity.
Some of us can still remember when OSHA issued an Ergonomics Program Standard, which became law on January 16, 2001, under the Clinton administration. By March 2001, the Bush administration repealed it. All administrations have their agendas, but the most imperative focus area is to lead our work regardless of the administration. We have a clear set of defined rules and regulations to protect the worker and the work environment. In my mind, governmental regulations are table stakes and the foundation from which we work. As a practitioner, my first duty is to maintain compliance, and that supersedes which political party may be in office.
What do you think are some of the most pressing EHSQ issues facing corporate leaders and safety professionals in 2021 and beyond?
I believe 2021 will still be about COVID-19. With the vaccine, I expect we will begin to see organizations returning more people to the physical workplace. Heavy protection protocols are likely, since vaccinations for many are voluntary. Temperature checks, wellness questionnaires, PPE, social distancing, hand hygiene and exposure management will still be active in 2021.
I think more compliance focus for the EHS professional will be required and less standard EHS programming. Worker safety engagement will also be a challenge due to the increased number of workers returning who may have been working isolated for the last year.
It is clear that good communication and setting expectations early will play a vital role for the EHS professional in 2021. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach in 2021, but lockstep leadership efforts across organizations will be imperative to EHS success.
Learn more from our expert panelists by registering for OSHA Under Biden and joining us on April 7!