OSHA Places “Hold” on COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard

On April 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh placed a “hold” on the implementation of a potential U.S. Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS would have set in place a nationwide regulation for all OSHA covered workplaces, including printing operations. 

OSHA was working to create an ETS as directed by President Biden’s inauguration day Executive Order which set a March 15 deadline for determining whether an ETS was necessary. OSHA did issue revised workplace guidance, stepped up COVID-19 enforcement, and issued a National Emphasis Program that will become effective in all states, including those with state plans.     

According to Secretary Walsh any ETS needs to “reflect the latest scientific analysis of the state of the disease” and is delaying implementation until such scientific review is completed. Walsh ordered a rapid update based on CDC analysis and the latest information regarding the state of vaccinations and the variants. 

This announcement could mean that due to the rate of vaccinations, a state of emergency that would warrant such a rule no longer exists. At the current rate of vaccination, much of the U.S. population will be vaccinated in a matter of months.  

By law, OSHA is only allowed to issue emergency standard if a “grave danger” exists when the standard is issued. OSHA is also compelled to demonstrate that the benefits the ETS is expected to achieve are justified. Since the rule would impose significant costs to employers, the current circumstances make a rule harder to justify with each passing day.  

OSHA may also be expecting that the ETS will likely be challenged immediately through lawsuits and accordingly, may need to bolster its justification. The last ETS issued by OSHA in 1993 was thrown out by a federal court.  

OSHA has not offered any indications regarding when it will complete a review of the possible ETS. The PRINTING United Alliance’s Government Affairs team will keep you updated as more information becomes available. 

For more information, please contact PRINTING United Alliance’s Government Affairs Department at govtaffairs@printing.org or Adriane Harrison, VP of Human Relations Consulting at aharrison@printing.org.  

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