During the Trump administration, OSHA adopted a policy of largely limiting Covid-related inspections to a small number of high-risk industries like healthcare and emergency response. It did not include packaging of meat – which studies have shown to be a major source of transmission of the virus – in this high-risk group.
Some worker groups have given OSHA credit to President Donald J. Trump for enforcing health care safety rules, including proposed penalties of over $ 1 million for violations in dozens of health facilities and nursing homes. But critics accused the agency of largely failing to impose fines on meat processors for lax safety standards, such as not keeping workers far enough away.
Mr Walsh said the risks to most workers outside of health care have eased as cases have declined and vaccination rates have increased. He also said that guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month advising those who have been vaccinated that they generally do not need to wear a mask indoors played a role in the decision to l OSHA to forgo a broader Covid-19 standard.
“OSHA has adapted the rule that reflects the reality on the ground, the success of vaccination efforts, as well as the latest CDC guidelines and the changing nature of the pandemic,” Walsh said on the call.
David Michaels, head of OSHA under the Obama administration, said CDC guidelines made it more difficult to pass a broader OSHA rule. “To justify an emergency standard, OSHA must show that there is a serious danger,” said Dr. Michaels. “For this to happen, the CDC should have clarified its recommendation and said that for many workers there remains a serious danger.”
Without such clarification, said Dr Michaels, now a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health, employer groups would likely have challenged any new OSHA rule in court, arguing that CDC guidelines stated that ‘a rule was unnecessary.
Dr Michaels said the new standard was a late step, but it was disappointing that no Covid-specific standard had been published for industries such as meat packaging, corrections and retail. detail. “If exposure is not controlled in these workplaces, they will continue to be major drivers of infections,” he said.