Tags: Coronavirus | senate | OSHA | democrats | workplace

Senate Dems Demand OSHA Audit of Virus Protection Measures

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By    |   Thursday, 28 May 2020 11:30 AM

Some Senate Democrats want to make sure the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is protecting workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

A group of lawmakers sent a letter to the Labor Department’s inspector general on Wednesday requesting a deep-dive into OSHA’s inspections and citations since the start of the pandemic in March. They also asked for an investigation into the agency’s decision not to mandate an emergency standard to handle the virus.

The call for the audit into the agency was led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass, and cosigned by Sens. Tim Kaine, Va., Tammy Baldwin, Wis., Bob Casey Penn., and Tammy Duckworth, Ill. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also signed the letter.

The letter states that the senators are concerned that the number of citations OSHA has issued since the onset of the pandemic dropped by nearly 70%. They also pointed out a drop in inspection rates. The letter also said there was concern that an OSHA spokesperson reported the agency hasn’t handed out one citation related to the coronavirus.

“During this same period, thousands of essential workers have become sick, and many have died after being exposed to coronavirus at their workplace,” the letter states. “We are writing to seek an audit of OSHA’s response to the pandemic, including an explanation for why citation and inspection numbers have dropped so dramatically during this national emergency.”

The senators wrote they have “grave concerns that OSHA is failing to meet its core mission of protecting worker health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Warren told HuffPost that OSHA has “let employers off the hook” and “refused to take even the most basic steps to protect workers during this crisis.”

The lawmakers said it was “beyond dispute” that the coronavirus “constitutes a new hazard” and requires an emergency standard. They called OSHA’s reasoning for not implementing one “plainly faulty.”

The letter calls out several COVID-19 outbreaks that have occurred at work places across the country like a Walmart store in Massachusetts, a Smithfield meatpacking plant in South Dakota and an Amazon warehouse in Kentucky. 

As of last week, OSHA had opened just 310 inspections related to COVID-19 out of nearly 4,000 complaints received on the subject, Politico reported. A Labor Department spokesperson told Politico that over 2,500 of the complaints had been closed out. 

In their letter, the lawmakers referenced those figures and said OSHA has “largely abdicated its investigation and enforcement responsibilities for even existing standards.”

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Some Senate Democrats want to make sure the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is protecting workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
senate, OSHA, democrats, workplace
Thursday, 28 May 2020 11:30 AM
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