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Future OSHA heads can drive tough COVID-19 standards



The National Board of Occupational Safety and Health has still not issued a temporary emergency for COVID-19 worker safety under President Joe Biden's executive order in January, but the agency is closer to having a leader who can push for a tough move, experts say.

On April 9, President Biden announced the appointment of Doug Parker, currently Head of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, to the Board of OSHA. While unions welcome his appointment – which must be confirmed by the Senate – others are concerned that OSHA under his leadership will focus on enforcement rather than education and that a temporary emergency standard under his leadership will be burdensome for employers.

"He is qualified, and I do not think he will have a hard time being confirmed," said Eric Conn, founder of Washington for Conn Maciel Carey LLP. "The concerns of the industry … will be the same things that made him attractive to the Biden administration ̵

1; a strong union background."

"Undoubtedly, OSHA under Parker will be prescriptive. … (OSHA) will be an explicit ally of the less powerful worker," said Gary Pearce, Waterford, Michigan-based risk manager of risk and analysis firm Aclaimant Inc.

Mr. Parker, who has been Cal / OSHA's CEO since 2019, spent nearly four years as CEO of Worksafe Inc., a nonprofit organization in Oakland, California that advocates for workers' rights, and also served as deputy secretary. for the policy of the Mine Safety and Health Administration during the Obama administration.

"I expect to see increased sanctions and increased violations under his leadership", with an increased "focus on enforcement and perhaps less focus on … resolving problems, says Cressinda Schlag, attorney in Austin, Texas, office of Jackson Lewis PC

Cal / OSHA under Parker's supervision issued its temporary emergency standard in November which introduced expansive requirements for employers including plans for COVID-19 communications, hazards, personal protective equipment, testing, quarantine and infection prevention. Industry groups questioned it, but a Supreme Court judge rejected a request for a preliminary injunction to stop its enforcement.

Although the deadline of March 31 for a federal standard to be released came and went, many still believe that one is on the way. Days before Parker's appointment, US Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh announced that he was pausing to develop a COVID-19 standard.

"We know exactly how Doug Parker feels about the need for a COVID ETS because he led the fight in California," Conn said. "Not only does his nomination make more issuance of the issuance of a rule, it also increases the possibility of a more onerous rule than we had hoped for."

Some of the requirements of the Cal / OSHA standard lack science. behind them to support "further significant compliance burdens for employers already struggling to recover from the pandemic," Schlag said.

"If you look at the California standard, there are two or three things that were kind of lightning rods… and worried the business community the most," Pearce said. These included the unfunded mandate that employers compensate quarantine workers and COVID-19 tests in the workplace based on three or more exposures at the employer's expense, he said.

"If three of your employees fell ill during the spring break, you must now carry out something that could be hundreds of thousands of dollars for testing," Conn said. "

Another issue with the California standard is that some of the provisions on technical controls are not supported by science and do not recognize that" there is a whole set of options for controlling the spread, "he said.

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

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