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Employers Pending Federal Work Safety Standard for COVID-19



While employers are waiting to see if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will create a temporary occupational safety standard for COVID-19, their legal experts hope the federal government avoids what they consider costly and inflexible measures introduced by individual state OSHAs [19659002] On January 21, President Joe Biden signed an executive order urging OSHA by February 4 to revise the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Workers and, if "determined to be necessary", to issue a temporary emergency by March. Such emergency standards have already been introduced in California, Michigan and Virginia.

"We fully expect this to happen," said Melanie Paul, a lawyer at OSHA's practice for Jackson Lewis PC in Atlanta. "(President) Trump took a more flexible approach to COVID, because it was so new. Now we'll see a shift. … The remaining question is how far will the emergency standard go?

OSHA has fined hundreds of COVID-1

9 security companies since the pandemic began. It has relied in its compliance measures on provisions such as its general obligation clause, which requires employers to provide a safe workplace, and its breathing standard, which requires employers to provide personal protective equipment, fit testing of personal protective equipment such as N-95 masks and training.

In turn, companies have relied heavily on OSHA-approved Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which include such protocols as worm carrying, social distancing, and contact tracking. While individual states and municipalities have piggy-backed on the requirements, OSHA in California, Michigan and Virginia created standards that introduced more guidance and fines for non-compliance.

Experts say that a federal temporary standard, which would expire in six months, is likely and could, depending on what it contains, cause concern among employers.

"It is really my burning hope that some of the elements of California (temporary emergency standard) are not in the federal ETS," said Susan White, partner in Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP's Washington office.

Among the concerns with the California standard, which at least one business group has publicly described as "sweeping, impossible and burdensome", is that it deviates from CDC guidelines.

Pat Tyson, partner and head of OSHA practice at the Atlanta office in Constangy, Brooks, Smith and Prophete LLP, said that a "five-hour conversation with 1,000 people" recently showed "it is clear that there is a lot problem "with the California standard.

An example of the difference between the California and CDC guidelines is contact with a COVID-19 positive person and what constitutes exposure. The CDC guideline describes close contact as that between two people, one of whom is COVID-19 positive, within six meters of each other for more than 15 minutes.

The California standard is less specific, describing exposure as applicable to someone in the workplace, even if the person is not working in the same area as the person considered to be exposed, triggering the need for everyone to be quarantined with pay, according to Brent Clark, Chicago-based partner in labor and employment practices for the Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

"It has sent shockwaves through California, as it has certain provisions that are a significant departure from the CDC guidelines, "Clark said, adding that the CDC guidelines have proven valuable for customers in developing security software.

"These programs have been very effective," he said. “The controls worked and started with health checks all the way to masking and good cleaning and disinfection. In the security world, we call that layer of protection. Eventually, with so many layers, you get a solid wall. "

" One of the issues that has come to the California standard is the (definition of) outbreak. … The definitions are a little different, Tyson said. "There is a lot of confusion" about who needs to be quarantined.

Another issue with creating a standard is that it is difficult to change the rules – because the science of COVID-19 is catching up – experts say.

For example, the Michigan standard still requires a 14-day quarantine, although the CDC now says the quarantine period should be 10 days, Clark said. "It's in Michigan right now, and they can not change it. It's so clumsy administratively, he said.

More insurance and work compensation news about the coronavirus crisis here .


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