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Health and Safety Headlines

OSHA Eyes March 15 Deadline for Potential COVID-19 ETS

President Biden has ordered federal OSHA to decide by March 15th whether an emergency temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19 is necessary, and if so, to issue an ETS by that date as well. If federal OSHA moves forward with an ETS, they will have several state standards to use as a guide. This order was issued as part of President Biden’s January “National Strategy for the COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness.” Look for more coverage on the topic of a federal ETS in future issues of Lifelines.

Biden Looks to Labor for Another Key OSHA Post

President Biden has chosen Jim Frederick – whose career includes occupational safety and health work with the Steelworkers, and more recently, the New York State Laborers’ TriFunds – to serve as OSHA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary. Continuing a string of strong pro-labor appointments, the choice was widely praised, and should help the agency make immediate progress on a potential COVID-19 standard and other important workplace safety issues. Frederick is currently the highest ranking official at federal OSHA and will continue to serve as chief until the Senate confirms President Biden’s choice for Assistant Labor Secretary.

Virginia First State to Issue Permanent COVID-19 Standard

After becoming the first state to pass a COVID-19 ETS, Virginia is now the first state to pass a permanent COVID-19 standard as well. Like all emergency standards, the VA ETS was set to expire after 180 days. With the pandemic still underway, Virginia chose to make its workplace protections permanent. Travis Parsons, the Fund’s Associate Director of Occupational Safety and Health, voted in favor of adopting the standard as a member of the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board.

Survey Highlights Key Barrier to Stopping Systemic Racism

A Rand Corporation survey about populations at greater risk for COVID-19 found that over half of respondents didn’t view systemic racism as a main reason that people of color have poorer health outcomes. As Rand senior policy researcher Anita Chandra notes, “We are far off in terms of explaining these types of issues better so that people understand it. Because those are the long-standing sources of inequity, not being able to appreciate it and understand it means that it’s really hard to design policy solutions.”

[Nick Fox]

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