OSHA Takes A Big Step Towards Issuing a COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

As we continue our marathon COVID-19 ETS watch, some news today made the future of OSHA’s emergency rulemaking more clear.  OSHA has officially delivered a proposed COVID-19 emergency temporary standard to the White House’s Office of Management Budget today, Monday, April 26th.  Although the OMB website is still not showing a record of the rule, the Department of Labor issued this statement:

“Today, OSHA sent draft standards to the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review.  OSHA has been working diligently on its proposal and has taken the appropriate time to work with its science-agency partners, economic agencies, and others in the U.S. government to get this proposed emergency standard right.”

We had circled this Wednesday, April 28th, on our calendar as the likely day OSHA would officially announce it was going to issue an ETS because that is Workers Memorial Day, and that seemed to be a good symbolic occasion to announce a rule designed to address a pandemic that has claimed so many lives.  Here’s a link to the Dept. of Labor’s Virtual Workers Memorial Day event, and here’s how the event is billed:

Every year, on April 28, the nation recognizes Workers Memorial Day. This is the day we pay our respects to those who lost their lives on the job, and recognize the impact these tragic losses have on families, co-workers, and communities. This year, we also recognize that, more than a year into the pandemic, every day essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were sickened or died as a result of just going to work – for simply doing what they had to do to support their families. They were healthcare workers, grocery workers, meatpackers, nurses, delivery drivers, farmworkers, law enforcement officers, teachers, and sanitation workers. We remember and honor every worker who has lost their life to largely preventable fatal injuries and illnesses, and we commit ourselves to fighting to make sure that others do not suffer the same terrible fate.

It also happens to be just a couple of days before OSHA will be dragged up to the Hill for an oversight hearing by the House Education and Labor Committee’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee regarding the status of OSHA’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard.  It seemed likely OSHA would try to cut off the earful it would receive from the House Democrats about the delay in issuing the ETS by making a big announcement earlier in the week.

It turns out our powers of deduction were spot on.  According to reporting by Bloomberg BNA, new Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh, apparently leaked the news about the ETS going to OMB on a series of calls to unions this morning.

We still expect that OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) will do a little more than just rubber stamp an approval.  We anticipate the proposed rule will still with OIRA for at least a couple of weeks, and that OIRA will accept some requests for stakeholder meetings to discuss concerns and recommendations about the rule.  We also still expect that the public will NOT get an opportunity to see the proposed regulatory text, even in connection with a stakeholder meeting with OIRA.

We will keep hitting the refresh button on OMB’s website, and will provide more updates if we learn anything more about what is expected to be in the rule, or if we get access to a copy of the proposed rule.

Leave a Reply