Work in These States? You May Not Be Protected Enough From COVID, Says Government
On Tuesday, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it may "reconsider and revoke" occupational safety guidelines established by three states, claiming they're not doing enough to protect workers from COVID-19. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.
What Rule Did the States Violate?
Federal officials said the three states hadn't adopted an OSHA rule (or implement their own rules "at least as effective") requiring employers to keep their employees safe from COVID-19. In June, OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard, whose provisions include weekly screening, indoor masking, and providing paid leave to get vaccinated. The guidelines are to apply to federal employees as well as private-sector workers.
"OSHA has worked in good faith to help these three state plans come into compliance," said Jim Frederick, the agency's acting director. "But their continued refusal is a failure to maintain their state plan commitment to thousands of workers in their state."
If the agency revokes the states' guidelines because they're inadequate, those states could lose millions in federal grant money.
Read on to find out which three states were found to be in violation.
Responding to the agency's claim, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said the state's workplace safety authority had told OSHA that the state was already in compliance with the new rule and that it had started reviewing the mandate once the agency said the state was not compliant, the New York Times reported.
In response to the emergency temporary standard, in July South Carolina said it would implement its own plan, which OSHA has found lacking. The Greenville Times reported that $2.3 million in grant money from OSHA is at stake.
"The longer South Carolina refuses to adapt emergency temporary standard for healthcare workers, the longer they're needlessly putting thousands of workers at risk for the spread of coronavirus," said Frederick on Tuesday. "OSHA's main mission is to keep workers safe on the job, and the agency will not hesitate to use all of its resources to protect workers from known health hazards."
Emily H. Farr, the director of South Carolina's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, told the New York Times that the state's program had "proven effective as South Carolina has consistently had one of the lowest injury and illness rates in the nation."
On Tuesday, the Salt Lake Tribune said $1.6 million in grant money from OSHA was at stake because of the state's failure to implement a plan, calling it "a severe strategic error."
Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson issued a joint statement late Tuesday. "We reject the assertion that Utah's State Plan is less effective than the federal plan. While we have not refused to adopt standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), we will ask once again for an opportunity to engage with the Biden administration about our legitimate concerns complying with the proposed Healthcare ETS. Despite today's communication, we still welcome an opportunity to further explain our position and recommendations," they said.
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.