U.S. President Joe Biden Directs OSHA to Explore Temporary Standard to Protect Workers from COVID-19

OSHA Temporary Standard COVID-19

On his first full day in the Oval Office, U.S. President Joe Biden on Jan. 21, 2021 signed a number of executive orders, among them, the Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety.

The order states that “Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative. Healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. It is the policy of my Administration to protect the health and safety of workers from COVID-19.”

The National Safety Council (NSC) issued a statement saying it applauded President Biden for the executive order directing OSHA to determine whether an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) is necessary to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.

“In the last 10 months, employers have operated without a national guideline that provides a uniform level … Read more...

4 OSHA Issues to Follow in Early 2021

OSHA Developments in 2021

James Thornton, chair of the Government Affairs Committee of the American Society of Safety Professionals, offers his view of the issues facing the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration in 2021, including agency leadership and reinvigorated standards activity.

(This blog is reprinted with permission from the American Society of Safety Professionals.)

It would be fascinating to travel into the future and see what history will say about 2020. As the year closed out, we all had experienced life-altering events that will be forever etched in our memories. Time will determine the impact of these events, but certainly “new normals” have and will be formed. Virtually every facet of our lives has changed – socially, financially and professionally.

The same is true of occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals. Throughout our careers, we have used our education and skills to help workers return safely to their families at the end … Read more...

OSHA’s Site-Specific Targeting (SST) Directive: Full Inspections Only in Cases of Elevated Injury and Illness Experience

Updated OSHA Inspection Program

With the end-goal of utilizing limited enforcement resources to target workplaces with elevated injury and illness incidents, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced updates to its site-specific targeting program. The Site-Specific Targeting (SST) Directive takes the place of Site-Specific Targeting 2016, and focuses on non-construction organizations with a minimum of 20 employees.

The changes to the inspection program are as follows:

  1. The creation of a new targeting category for establishments indicating consistent injury and illness rate increases over the three-year data collection period, and
  2. Permits records-only inspections to be carried out when a compliance officer discovers that an organization was included in the program due to error. In these instances, a complete inspection will only be carried out when it has been determined that the reported number of injury and illnesses have increased.

With this in mind, it is important for organizations to focus on developing a … Read more...

How Much Will the Election Results Influence OSHA?

OSHA Election Results

OSHA will take one of two very different approaches to health and safety rulemaking and enforcement over the next four years, depending on who emerges victorious in November’s U.S. Presidential election. A recent webinar explored how those visions differ and hypothesized what tangible effects either a Joe Biden or Donald Trump victory will have on the agency.


The Pandemic Priority


Regardless of who wins, OSHA’s key focus will invariably be on managing the current COVID-19, pandemic, asserted Kate McMahon, partner at Conn Maciel Carey, the Washington, D.C. law firm focused on labor and employment, workplace safety and litigation that hosted the webinar. However, the form that management will take will look significantly different depending on who prevails at the polls. If it’s Biden, it is highly likely his administration will issue a federal-level Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) within its first 100 days.

“It will codify and make mandatory a lot … Read more...

Making Worker and Pedestrian Safety a High Priority: Guidelines to Use When Developing a Robust Walking-Working Surfaces Program

As the saying goes: “Safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless.”

Falls on level – slips, trips and falls – can be some of the most debilitating and expensive injuries workers can suffer and contribute to a surprising number of worker deaths each year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that “on average, slips, trips and falls cause nearly 700 fatalities per year.” As such, it’s become increasingly clear that this requires attention as well as improved practices and programs.

OSHA’s Standards and Recommended Practices


Designed to protect workers from injuries caused by problematic walking-working surfaces, OSHA updated its existing standards in 2017 and now include training and stricter risk mitigation practices and procedures (e.g. more inspections). Organizations ultimately are responsible for ensuring that they develop walking-working surfaces programs.

Effective Walking-Working Surface Programs: Insights and Tactical Recommendations by Industry Experts


With over 25 years of experience under his belt, Scott Gaddis, … Read more...

OSHA Guidance for the Construction Industry During Coronavirus Disease 2019

OSHA recently published COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce.

(This Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) blog is reprinted with permission from the authors and from the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP.)

We have issued several GT Alerts on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) response to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Our first Alert, published Jan. 31, 2020, provided general information on OSHA requirements and steps for employers to consider as COVID-19 began to appear in the United States, before work shutdown and shelter orders were in place.

The second alert, published March 25, 2020, provided guidance for essential workers. The third alert, published April 14, 2020, examined whether an employee’s COVID-19 case is work-related and recordable. This fourth alert covers recently published guidance provided by OSHA for the construction industry, “COVID-19 Guidance for the Construction Workforce.”

List of COVID-19 Recommendations

Although OSHA targeted the construction industry, this concise list … Read more...

Is COVID-19 a Workplace Illness? OSHA Attempts to Clarify Recordkeeping

OSHA hopes its latest enforcement guidance helps employers focus their response efforts on implementing good hygiene practices in their workplaces and otherwise mitigating COVID-19’s effects.

OSHA has issued interim guidance for enforcing its recordkeeping requirements (29 CFR Part 1904) as they relate to recording cases of COVID-19.

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, COVID-19 is considered a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for reporting cases of COVID-19 as workplace injuries and illnesses if the case:

  • Is confirmed as a COVID-19 illness;
  • Is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  • Involves one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.

In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, many employers may have difficulty making determinations about whether workers who contracted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work, making accurate injury and illness reporting … Read more...

Don’t Let Slips and Falls on Walking Working Surfaces Bring You Down

Ice and snow, oily surfaces, slick floors, and trip hazards not only can cause slips and falls that injure employees, they can kill employees.

We’ve all taken a fall on ice or a slippery surface. Hopefully, the only thing that got bruised was our ego. That’s not always the case; emergency rooms fill with people suffering from fall injuries that occur on walking and working surfaces when water, oil, ice, and snow make walking surfaces slippery.

Workers are not immune to same-surface slips and falls, and OSHA recognized this fact. That’s why OSHA issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems. The goal of the rule is to better protect workers in general industry from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements.

What’s in the Walking-Working Surfaces Standard?

The rule, which became effective in January 2017, incorporates advances in technology, … Read more...

OSHA Releases Guidance About Preparing the Workplace for the Threat of COVID-19

OSHA urges employers to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

OSHA has released a guidance about best practices for COVID-19 and the workplace. The “Guidance for Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” planning guidance is based on traditional infection prevention and industrial hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement engineering, administrative, and work practice controls and personal protective equipment (PPE).

For employers who have already planned for influenza pandemics, planning for COVID-19 may involve updating plans. These plans could address the specific exposure risks, sources of exposure, routes of transmission, and other unique characteristics of SARS-CoV-2.

Employers who have not prepared for pandemic events can still take steps to prepare their workplaces and workers. It’s not too late to create a business continuity plan. In addition, provide cross-functional training for workers so that they can step in for quarantined coworkers … Read more...

Occupational Fatalities in 2018 Up 2 Percent: Workplace Overdoses, Suicides on the Rise

The most recent Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Report, released by The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS), shows the rate of fatal work injuries increased by 2 percent in 2018 – the fourth such increase in five years – and two statistics stand out.

Tragically, unintentional overdoses at work increased by 12 percent in 2018 — the sixth consecutive annual increase and a reflection of the broader opioid crisis that the United States is facing. OSHA has teamed with the National Safety Council (NSC) on the release of a toolkit to help employers address opioid abuse in their workplaces and support workers in recovery.

Unintentional overdoses from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol increased for the sixth consecutive year, claiming 305 lives in 2018 compared with 272 the previous year, the NSC noted. Meanwhile, work-related motor vehicle deaths declined, totaling 1,276 in 2018 from 1,299 in 2017. In addition, falls … Read more...