National Worker’s Group Criticizes OSHA’s COVID-19 Safety Standards

The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health is not happy with how the federal government has handled worker safety during the pandemic. They've got some ideas on what could be done better.

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Last week the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) released what it calls the National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health. The 17-page report is critical of steps taken by the federal government to protect essential workers in the U.S. from COVID-19 over the last year, as well as the dangerous conditions essential workers still face.

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“Up until now, neither the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), our nation’s safety and health agency, nor any other federal body has enacted meaningful protections,” the report says. “Many employers have knowingly disregarded workers’ health and safety during the pandemic. Some have even gambled on workers contracting the COVID-19 virus.”

National COSH worked with labor and community-based organizations from across the U.S. on the report, which presents worker safety ideas gleaned from health experts and the real-world experiences of workers themselves. The agenda offers eight main goals:

  1. Strengthen and enforce our safety laws and regulations.
  2. Don’t let employers silence us: Workers must be protected by strong anti-retaliation protections.
  3. Listen to workers – we need a seat at the table.
  4. Safe workplaces for all: Equity and inclusion.
  5. Guarantee fair and just compensation for workers, no special deals for corporations.
  6. Create worker-centered protocols to track, prevent and protect against COVID-19.
  7. Confront the workplace effects of climate change.
  8. Prevent chemical catastrophes and harmful exposures.

“Our National Agenda is based on listening to workers and health and safety experts, who know about safety problems on their job and know how to fix them,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH.

The National Agenda for Worker Safety and Health already has been endorsed by multiple organizations and individuals, including the National Employment Law Project, the Legal Aid Justice Center and the National Day Laborer Organizer Network.

“Day laborers have lost work during this pandemic, we are not being treated fairly, and our working conditions are not safe,” said Marcos Vasquez, a construction worker and member of the Fe y Justicia (Faith and Justice) Worker Center in Houston, Tex., which also endorses the Agenda.  “We need strong action, now, to protect ourselves and our families.”