Among the executive orders signed during his first two days in office, President Joe Biden directed OSHA and MSHA consider emergency temporary standards related to COVID-19, among other steps. The order stated that the appropriate executive agencies should issue, within two weeks, revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The executive order also states that OSHA is to consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 are necessary. If OSHA deems that an emergency standard is necessary, they are to be issued by March 15th, 2021.
A national program is also being instituted under the executive order aimed at increasing OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles. Earlier this month, OSHA penalties increased for the 2021 FY, with Serious violations topping $13,653 and Willful violations rising to $136,532.
Under the order, a multi-lingual outreach campaign is also being built. The goal of this campaign is to inform workers and their representatives of their rights under applicable law. This campaign includes engagement with labor unions, community organizations, and industries, and places a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
The EO also directs OSHA to coordinate with State Plan states to protect workers not covered by the federal agencies and to consult with state/local governments and/or public sector unions on how best to protect workers in the public sector.
Finally, the order calls on the departments of Agriculture, Transportation, and Health and Human Services, among others, to protect workers not covered under OSHA or MSHA.