OSHA gave an update on a possible COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) along with a brief overview on what it’s doing to combat COVID-19 in the workplace during the Voluntary Protection Program Participants’ Association (VPPPA) Next Level Safety Virtual Conference.
During the opening session of the event, Jim Frederick, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA, highlighted the recent efforts the agency has taken to address COVID-19 in the workplace.
“At OSHA, the importance of our mission is … just as important – maybe more important – now than at any time in the agency’s 50-year history,” Frederick said.
Frederick mentioned President Joe Biden’s directive for the agency to re-evaluate its pandemic response plan, leading to two recent updates:
- On Jan. 29, OSHA updated its COVID-19 guidance for employers with more forceful language.
- The agency issued a National Emphasis Program on COVID-19 on March 12 to focus its enforcement efforts on “companies that put the largest numbers of workers at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus.” This program will also prioritize employers who retaliate against workers for complaints about unsafe or unhealthy conditions.
OSHA is also “continuing to consider whether an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 is necessary,” according to Frederick.
Another important thing to consider: Frederick pointed out that OSHA has posted a number of new job openings for compliance officers and other positions, so it seems the agency is in the process of bolstering its workforce.