By Angela Childers
A circuit court denied on Thursday a petition filed by labor unions that would have forced the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue an emergency safety rule to address COVID-19.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit unanimously denied the petition filed by the AFL-CIO, holding that OSHA “reasonably determined” that an emergency temporary standard to prevent workers from occupational exposure to COVID-19 was “not necessary at this time.”
The AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit against OSHA May 25, asking the court to compel the agency to issue an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from coronavirus. The union, along with nearly two dozen other unions and employment groups, had already petitioned OSHA directly about a COVID-19 standard. While the agency has released industry-specific guidance for a variety of industries, the guidance is not enforceable.
The court’s brief order noted that OSHA may issue an emergency temporary standard “if it determines that employees are exposed to grave danger from a new hazard in the workplace” and that the agency was “entitled to considerable deference” in this regard.
The principal deputy assistant secretary for OSHA, Loren Sweatt, issued a statement Thursday praising the court’s decision and reiterating that OSHA “reasonably determined that its existing statutory and regulatory tools” were sufficiently protecting American workers.
The president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, said in a statement Thursday that the court’s actions “fell woefully short of fulfilling its duty to ensure that the Occupational Safety and Health Act is enforced.”
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.