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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 WarrenThe Memo: The center strikes back Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Democrats have turned solidly against gas tax 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 TrumpMaria Bartiromo defends reporting: 'Keep trashing me, I'll keep telling the truth' The Memo: The center strikes back Republicans eye Nashville crack-up to gain House seat 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 SandersThe Memo: The center strikes back Sanders against infrastructure deal with more gas taxes, electric vehicle fees Sunday shows - Voting rights, infrastructure in the spotlight MORE (I-Vt.), Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthTaiwan reports incursion by dozens of Chinese warplanes Concerns grow over China's Taiwan plans China conducts amphibious landing drill near Taiwan after senators' visit MORE (D-Ill.), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyMcConnell seeks to divide and conquer Democrats Senate filibuster fight throws Democrats' wish list into limbo Parliamentarian changes Senate calculus for Biden agenda MORE Jr. (D-Pa.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinOvernight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Overnight Health Care: Takeaways on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision | COVID-19 cost 5.5 million years of American life | Biden administration investing billions in antiviral pills for COVID-19 MORE (D-Wis.) and Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine Democrats introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for government discrimination Democrats scramble to unify before election bill brawl 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.