OSHA Issues Covid Workplace Safety Rule, But Only for Health Care
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Mr Walsh said the risks for most non-healthcare workers had decreased as cases decreased and vaccination rates increased. He also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines last month, telling vaccinated individuals that they generally do not need to wear a mask indoors, played a role in OSHA’s decision on one dispense with the broader Covid-19 standard.
“OSHA has adjusted the rule to reflect the reality on the ground, the success of the vaccine effort, as well as the latest guidance from the CDC and the changing nature of the pandemic,” Walsh said on the call.
David Michaels, an OSHA chief during the Obama administration, said the CDC guidelines made it difficult to implement a broader OSHA rule. “In order to justify an emergency standard, OSHA needs to demonstrate that there is great danger,” said Dr. Michaels. “To do this, the CDC should have clarified its recommendation and said that there is a great danger for many workers.”
Without such clarification, said Dr. Michaels, now a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health, would have employer groups likely challenged any new OSHA rule in court, arguing that the CDC guidelines indicated that a rule was unnecessary.
Dr. Michaels said the new standard was an overdue move, but it was disappointing that no Covid-specific standard had been issued for industries such as meat packaging, corrections and retail. “If exposure is not controlled in these workplaces, they will continue to be major drivers of infection,” he said.
Jim Frederick, the acting head of OSHA, said at the request that the agency had the authority to enforce protection for workers outside the health industry through its so-called general mandatory clause, and that it would continue to do so, even without issuing broader Covid rules You this.
He said many meat packers, along with other workplaces, had been inspected as part of an OSHA program that put high-risk industries under additional scrutiny.