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Warren calls for investigation into OSHA inspections during pandemic

Warren calls for investigation into OSHA inspections during pandemic
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWhat a Biden administration should look like Overnight Defense: Dems want hearing on DOD role on coronavirus vaccine | US and India sign data-sharing pact | American citizen kidnapped in Niger Conservative operatives Wohl, Burkman charged in Ohio over false robocalls MORE (D-Mass.) led five fellow Senate Democrats calling on a Labor Department watchdog to investigate the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the letter to Labor Department Inspector General Scott Dahl, Warren and her fellow senators called for an audit of OSHA’s handling of citations and inspections during the pandemic, and pointed out the lack of an OSHA emergency temporary standard (ETS) revising the existing federal safety standard from the department since it began.

The letter notes that since President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline MORE declared a national emergency on March 13, OSHA-issued citations have been down nearly 70 percent even as thousands of essential workers have contracted the virus on the job, many of whom later died. OSHA has declined to issue an ETS, saying it would provide no further benefit for workers, an explanation the letter calls “plainly faulty.”

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“OSHA inspections dropped from on average 217 a day to 60 a day after the national emergency declaration, and the number of OSHA citations has decreased by nearly 70 percent compared with the prior two years,” they wrote.

The senators go on to claim that the department, in addition to refusing to issue an ETS, “has largely abdicated its investigation and enforcement responsibilities for even existing standards,” noting that OSHA has only opened 310 coronavirus-related inspections despite receiving more than 3,990 coronavirus-related complaints as of May 18.

The letter was signed by Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersOcasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' What a Biden administration should look like Ocasio-Cortez: 'Trump is the racist visionary, but McConnell gets the job done' MORE (I-Vt.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthTech CEOs clash with lawmakers in contentious hearing Ocasio-Cortez discusses family planning, possibly freezing her eggs Amy Coney Barrett's extreme views put women's rights in jeopardy MORE (D-Ill.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Democrats hold talkathon to protest Barrett's Supreme Court nomination Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 Healthcare, retirement security seen as top issues for older voters, lawmakers say MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinInfrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing Baldwin calls for Senate hearing on CDC response to meatpacking plant coronavirus outbreak MORE (D-Wis.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats brace for nail-biting finish to Senate battle Democratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Two Loeffler staffers test positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Va.), in addition to Warren. 

"Due to our grave concerns that OSHA is failing to meet its core mission of protecting worker health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and failing to meet legal requirements to adopt an ETS to prevent additional, unnecessary worker illnesses and deaths, we ask that you open an audit of OSHA's actions and decisions during the pandemic expeditiously," they wrote.