Biden Administration Further Delays OSHA COVID-19 Workplace Health Standard

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is extending its policy review of an OSHA temporary emergency rule that would require employers to follow workplace health protocols designed to protect workers from contracting COVID-19.

The emergency rule is controversial because it is believed to impose a one-size-fits-all health standard onto employers across many different industry sectors.

The standard is also expected to require employers to conduct COVID-19 risk assessments and follow OSHA guidelines to prevent workplace infections.

The emergency rule is being proposed at a time when the pandemic is subsiding and state and local social distancing and mask mandates are being phased-out nationwide.

Employers are concerned that if the emergency rule is implemented, they will be forced to follow an employee health standard that is unnecessary and ill-suited for their industry and workplaces.

Employers are telling OIRA that instead of a one-size-fits-all standard, they prefer to follow existing CDC guidelines that can be easily adapted to the needs of individual worksites.

OIRA has been holding listening sessions with stakeholders on the emergency rule since April. However, little is known about OSHA’s COVID-19 standard because it has not been released to the public.

Emergency rules are not subject to the normal public notice and comment period that typical federal rulemakings must follow. In addition, OIRA is only holding listening sessions where stakeholders testify before a panel and no questions are asked or answered.

Nevertheless, interest in testifying remains so high that OIRA has extended the sessions more than a month past their expected end date.

The Biden Administration initially set March 15 as the deadline for the OSHA rule, but didn’t send it over to OIRA for final review until April 26th. A final rule is likely to be issued this summer.

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