Leading the fight for safe and healthy workplaces

You are here

President Biden’s Orders on COVID-19 and Workplace Safety Are “Urgently Needed First Steps”

Thursday, January 21, 2021
Press Contacts: 

Roger Kerson, 734.645.0535; roger@nationalcosh.org

National COSH Says President Biden’s Orders on
COVID-19 and Workplace Safety
Are “Urgently Needed First Steps”

Day-one OSHA appointments Frederick, Hughes, Rosenthal  
are “highly qualified” for top posts

LOS ANGELES – President Biden’s executive orders to protect workers and immediately strengthen our nation’s response to COVID-19 are urgently needed first steps on a long road to reversing the devastating impact of the pandemic, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said today.

“American workers are sick, dying and broke after a year of a deadly pandemic and a failed response by our federal government,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “The Biden-Harris administration is taking action immediately, giving us hope that workplace safety will now be a top priority.”

Among the more than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19, an unknown number are frontline workers who were exposed on the job.

Today, President Biden will sign an order calling on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue “clear guidance” to employers to protect workers and reduce the spread of COVID-19. Yesterday, the president signed an order requiring masks on federal property and for travel on airplanes, trains and busses.

“Today’s executive order,” said Martinez, “should move OSHA to rapidly issue a temporary emergency standard requiring all employers to have a plan for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, with full worker involvement.”

“There’s no way to stop the spread of COVID-19 without comprehensive, science-based protections for America’s frontline workers,” she said. “We can’t rely on a vaccine alone; in the months ahead, we also need aggressive public health measures to reduce risk for workers, our families and communities.”

National COSH also praised President Biden’s decision to appoint James Frederick, Joseph T. Hughes and Ann Rosenthal to senior positions at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the first day of his administration.

“Appointing highly qualified, experienced leaders in senior positions at OSHA on day one is extremely important as we confront the most deadly workplace health crisis in our lifetimes,” said Martinez.

Creating a new senior management position at OSHA for Pandemic and Emergency Response is also a positive step, said Martinez. A distinct effort on pandemic response, said Martinez, will allow OSHA to maintain focus on preventable workplace dangers that claim more than 5,000 lives each year from workplace trauma and result in an estimated 95,000 deaths from long-term exposure to toxic chemicals and other hazards.

“Workers know their jobs, know where the safety problems are and know how to prevent them,” said Martinez. “We’re ready to work with new leadership at OSHA, throughout the federal government and with members of Congress to empower workers and make our workplaces safer.”

* * *

National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace. For more information, please visit coshnetwork.org. Follow us at National COSH on Facebook, and @NationalCOSH on Twitter.