Biden Issues Workplace Health and Safety Executive Order
The Jan. 22 executive order instructs OSHA to clarify and update COVID-19 safety recommendations.
- By Nikki Johnson-Bolden
- Jan 27, 2021
President Biden signed an executive order that instructs OSHA to revise its COVID-19 safety recommendations on Jan. 22, according to The Washington Post.
The order, which is called the “Executive Order on Protecting Health and Safety,” requires OSHA to publish the updated recommendations within two weeks. There will need to be a guidance that informs employers on how to maintain safety in the workplace during the pandemic. The order also instructs OSHA to consider whether an emergency temporary standard on coronavirus needs to be passed. If it is determined that this is the case, then such guidance must be issued by March 15.
“Ensuring the health and safety of workers is a national priority and a moral imperative,” Biden said in the order. “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...The Federal Government must take swift action to reduce the risk that workers may contract COVID-19 in the workplace.”
David Michaels, the former head of OSHA under the Obama administration, told NPR that despite this executive order, “federal OSHA can only go so far.” He cited this as the reason that President Biden asked Congress to pass legislation that “strengthens and expands OSHA’s authority.”
If OSHA issues an emergency temporary standard by the March 15 deadline, it could include a workplace mask-wearing mandate, as well as mandatory social distancing.
Learn more about the Biden administration's plans for improving worker safety by listening to this Safety Speak episode of the OH&S SafetyPod.
Nikki Johnson-Bolden is an Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety.