COVID-19 Safety Standards Heat Up Between States, the Biden Administration and OSHA

COVID-19 Safety Standards Heat Up Between States, the Biden Administration and OSHA

U.S. Department of Labor pushes to revoke safety oversight of Utah, Arizona and South Carolina.

OSHA is moving towards getting rid of three Republican-led states of workplace safety oversight, saying they failed to follow stricter COVID-19 safety standards. This is the latest development in a fight between the Biden administration and some states over federal coronavirus rules. Officials at the U.S. Department of Labor said Tuesday that it is starting the process of revoking state-level oversight of workforce-safety programs in Utah, Arizona and South Carolina.

The federal government said it began taking steps after the three states didn’t adopt the federal COVID-19 safety plans for healthcare workers which OSHA released in June. The plans, which were issued under a federal rule-making process known as an emergency temporary standard, included requirements on wearing masks, social distancing and paid time off for vaccinations.

“The longer these states refuse to adopt an emergency temporary standard for healthcare workers, the longer they’re needlessly putting thousands of workers at risk of the spread of the coronavirus,” Jim Frederick, OSHA’s acting assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, said Tuesday.

The U.S. DOL’s move marks the latest in a series of disputes between the federal government and some states over handling the pandemic. These include disagreements over a federal mandate requiring vaccines or weekly testing for workers at private employers with 100 or more employees.

22 states run their own occupational safety programs that cover private-sector and state and local government workers, according to an article. Utah, Arizona and South Carolina were the only three states that didn’t adopt any portion of OSHA’s healthcare emergency standard, the federal government said. Workplace-safety agencies in every state are required to adopt the federal standard as their own minimum requirements.

OSHA sent letters Tuesday to Utah, Arizona and South Carolina informing the states that the federal agency was considering revoking the states’ abilities to run their own programs. As a next step, OSHA will publish a separate notice on the Federal Register announcing a proposal to revoke the three states’ programs and provide a 35-day comment period.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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