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Biden administration will limit mandatory Covid workplace safety rules to health care settings

Published: in USA news by .

Unions and other safety advocates are likely to be unhappy with the decision.


The Labor Department will limit long-awaited emergency Covid-19 workplace safety rules to the healthcare sector, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said Wednesday, a move likely to disappoint unions and Democrats who were pushing for more expansive rules.

The rules, which have been under White House review since late April and are set to be released Thursday, were expected by both unions and businesses to apply broadly to all workplaces and require workers to wear masks on the job.

But the administration has decided it will instead update its optional guidance for general industry and has “tailored” the mandatory safety requirements to apply only to healthcare settings, Walsh said.

“OSHA has tailored a rule that focuses on healthcare, that science tells us that healthcare workers, particularly those who have come into regular contact with people either suspected of having or being treated for COVID-19 are most at risk,” he said during a House Education and Labor Committee hearing Wednesday. “We also expect to release some updated guidance for general industry which also reflects the CDC's latest guidance and tells employers how to protect workers who have not yet been vaccinated.”

The change in direction from the administration on the workplace safety requirements is a letdown for unions and Democrats who argue precautions like masking and social distancing are necessary to protect unvaccinated workers in all workplaces, who may not be getting the shot for a variety of reasons.

President Joe Biden directed the Labor Department to decide by March whether mandatory workplace safety rules that required businesses to take steps to protect their workers from Covid-19 were necessary. After weeks of delay, the administration sent the emergency rules to the White House for review at the end of April.

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Unions and other advocates grew concerned about how strong the safety rules would be following the Centers for Disease Control’s surprise update to its guidance in May that cleared fully vaccinated people to remove masks in most settings.

But business groups and conservatives argue that issuing stringent safety requirements this late into the pandemic would create confusion and undermine the economic recovery just as businesses are trying to get back to normalcy.

Source: Politics, Policy, Political News Top Stories https://www.politico.com/news/2021/06/09/biden-limits-covid-rules-health-care-492634

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