Worker safety

Democratic senators call on OSHA to issue Emergency Temporary Standard for workers due to coronavirus outbreak

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Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are calling on the Trump administration to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to protect workers from the spreading coronavirus.

The senators wrote to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia saying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Labor Department should announce an ETS after thousands of American workers are likely to be exposed to coronavirus due to their careers. They cited the “current and anticipated conditions” as reasons for OSHA to act. 

“The conditions on the ground seem to many observers to already satisfy the legal standards in the Occupational Safety and Health Act to justify OSHA issuing an ETS as health care workers, as well as other workers whose jobs involve interaction with the public, are clearly being exposed to ‘grave danger’ through exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” the letter said.

The senators mentioned hundreds of health care workers, first responders, flight attendants, pilots, public transportation workers, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners, baggage handlers and social workers as being “on the frontline and have been, or are likely to, be exposed to COVID-19.”

“By not issuing an ETS, you will be failing to protect the countless other workers who are at elevated risk of being exposed to COVID-19 simply through their normal job duties,” the senators wrote. “As our nation’s response to COVID-19 continues and ramps up, it is imperative that you take a leadership role in protecting all workers during this public health emergency.”

Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also joined in sending the letter.

The letter follows a request from the AFL-CIO and its president, Richard Trumka, asking union members to call their representatives to push for OSHA to issue the ETS and act in response to the outbreak.

“An Emergency Temporary Standard is needed to protect our workers from the current COVID-19 outbreak and future infectious agents. Will you call your representative now?” Trumka wrote in an email.

The coronavirus has infected more than 700 people in the U.S., spreading to 36 states and Washington, D.C., causing 27 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Tags Bob Menendez Coronavirus Cory Booker COVID-19 Department of Labor Elizabeth Warren Emergency Temporary Standard Eugene Scalia Occupational Safety and Health Administration Patty Murray Sherrod Brown Tammy Baldwin Tammy Duckworth

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