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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 WarrenStudent loan forgiveness would be windfall for dentists, doctors and lawyers OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden's Interior Department temporarily blocks new drilling on public lands | Group of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone | Judge grants preliminary approval for 0M Flint water crisis settlement Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee 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 TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call 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 SandersSunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus The Hill's 12:30 Report: Next steps in the Trump impeachment Sanders selling sweatshirts with his famous inauguration pose for charity MORE (I-Vt.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthOvernight Defense: Austin takes helm at Pentagon | COVID-19 briefing part of Day 1 agenda | Outrage over images of National Guard troops in parking garage National Guard back inside Capitol after having been moved to parking garage Senate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee MORE (D-Ill.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyDemocrats looking to speed through Senate impeachment trial Capitol Police officer hailed as hero for drawing rioters away from Senate chamber Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinK Street navigates virtual inauguration week Senate Democrats call on Biden to immediately invoke Defense Production Act Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 MORE (D-Wis.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineTrump impeachment trial to begin week of Feb. 8 Democrats float 14th Amendment to bar Trump from office Trump impeachment article being sent to Senate Monday 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.