In one of his Executive Orders on January 21st, President Biden ordered the development of federal guidance for Occupational Safety and Health.

The order addresses issues that are temporary in response to COVID-19 but also begins to address longer term issues.

In particular, Section 2 of the Executive Order provides that within two weeks of the order (February 4, 2021), the Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA shall:

  • issue revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards are determined necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021;
  • review the enforcement of OSHA related to COVID-19 and identify any short-, medium-, and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement;
  • launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles

It will be difficult for OSHA and state and local government entities to meaningfully confer and develop new guidance for implementation by March 15th.

UWC is reviewing the implementation of this order with respect to impact on workers’ compensation claims, COVID-19 presumptions, and the circumstances under which individuals may refuse offers of work and be paid unemployment compensation.