Administration Advances COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules

April 27, 2021

After weeks of delay, the Biden administration is advancing emergency workplace safety rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The rules were sent by the Labor Department to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review on Monday night –– this is the first step before the safety standards are released to the public and go into effect.  

Originally, after taking office, Biden gave the Labor Department a March 15 deadline to decide whether mandatory workplace safety rules were needed to protect workers from COVID-19. However, after the deadline passed, the agency said that they were reviewing additional evidence, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis and new information regarding variants and vaccinations. House Democrats and Representatives from some states have been exerting pressure on the Biden administration to explain the status of the rules. 

It’s expected that the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs will release the new rules in around two weeks, and they are likely to take effect immediately upon release.  

The new rules come at a time when many states started to roll back their pandemic restrictions, such as mask mandates. The rules are expected to require businesses to supply their employees with PPE, have a written plan to avert exposure in the workplace, and other precautions. The rules will stay in effect for the next six month –– acting as a floor for the 14 states that have instituted their own COVID-19 workplace restrictions and adding new requirements for employers in states with relaxed guidelines.  

The new standards are open for public comment and the Labor Department is required to adopt permanent safety standards in the next six months. The temporary standards can also be challenged by affected parties in federal court.