Brown, Colleagues Introduce Senate Bill to Protect Workers from Covid-19 As Workplace Infections and Deaths Rise

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Patty Murray (D-WA), in introducing legislation to protect U.S. workers from COVID-19 in response to disturbing, widespread reports of unsafe workplaces leading to preventable illnesses and deaths.

The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard that establishes a legal obligation for all workplaces to implement comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Workers are risking their lives during this public health emergency to keep our citizens safe and they need proper protection from the virus at work,” said Brown. “We need a real plan to reopen the economy safely with enforceable safety standards that will enable employers to adequately protect both workers and customers.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 9,000 U.S. health care workers have been infected with COVID-19. Outbreaks have been reported at a wide range of workplaces across the country, including one meat processing plant where more than 500 workers were infected with the virus.

Although the CDC issued guidance to protect workers, the guidance is not binding and OSHA currently has no enforceable standard to protect workers from airborne infectious diseases, leaving the nation’s workers at an elevated risk of exposure to the coronavirus at a time when they are needed most.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act gives the Department of Labor the authority to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard if employees are exposed to grave danger from new hazards. However, despite repeated calls from Committee Democrats to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard, the Department has made no effort to establish enforceable safety standards to protect workers from COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act directs OSHA to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard within 7 days that sets requirements for how workplaces must safeguard workers against the spread of the coronavirus. The legislation expands on a previous proposal, the COVID-19 Workers First Protection Act (S. 3584), by requiring OSHA to issue a standard covering all U.S. workers, including workers in health care facilities, warehouses, grocery stories, and food processing plants.   

In addition to Brown, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR) Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bob Casey (D-PA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairwoman Alma Adams (NC-12), and Congresswoman Donna Shalala (FL-27) and 27 colleagues introduced a companion bill in the House today, as well. 

To read a fact sheet for the COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020, click here.

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