President Joe Biden’s administration released new workplace guidelines Friday that signaled a more proactive approach to protecting workers from the coronavirus.
The new guidance from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration seeks to protect all types of workers, not just ones who are deemed to be at higher risk of contracting the virus depending on where they work.
It also asks employers to shield workers from retaliation if they complain about conditions and sets up ways for them to voice complaints anonymously. And it wants employers to give workers a bigger say in developing safety protocols.
“Workers are the people who know what they’re exposed to and can help develop ways that will help them ameliorate that exposure and still allow them to do their jobs,” said Ann Rosenthal, a senior advisor at OSHA.
Much of the guidelines released Friday are similar to ones from the Trump administration. And many workplaces have already adopted the guidelines, such as keeping workers at least 6 feet away from each other and having them wear face masks. Like the previous guidance, they can’t be enforced by the OSHA.
But the Biden administration is considering issuing federal emergency standards, which labor advocates have been pushing for, and that would carry more legal weight. An executive order Biden signed earlier this month gives OSHA until March 15 to decide if it will issue those standards.
OSHA also said Friday that it will resume publicly announcing when it fines workplaces for unsafe conditions, a sharp change from the Trump administration, which had cutback on making those announcements.
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