Mr. Walsh indicated that the risks for most non-health care workers diminished as cases fell and vaccination rates rose. He also pointed out that the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month advising those who have been vaccinated that they do not usually have to wear a mask indoors have played a role in OSHA’s decision to to abandon broader Covid-19 standard.
“OSHA has adapted the rule that reflects the reality on the ground, the success of the vaccination efforts, plus the latest guidance from CDC and the changing nature of pandemic,” he said. Walsh said.
David Michaels, a head of OSHA during the Obama administration, said the CDC leadership has made a broader OSHA rule more difficult to enact. “To justify an emergency standard, OSHA must show that there is a serious danger,” Dr Michaels said. “To make this happen, the CDC would have to clarify its recommendation and say that there is a serious danger for many workers.”
Without such an explanation, Dr. Michaels, now a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health, said employer groups would probably have challenged any new OSHA rule in court, arguing that the CDC leadership suggests that a rule is unnecessary.
Dr Michaels said the new standard was an overdue move, but that it was disappointing that no Covid-specific standard was issued for industries such as meat packaging, repairs and retail. “If exposure is not controlled in these workplaces, it will still be important drivers of infections,” he said.
Jim Frederick, the acting head of OSHA, said in the call that the agency has the power, even without the issuance of broader Covid rules, through the so-called general duty clause, to apply protection to employees outside the health industry and that it will continue to do so.
He said many meat packaging facilities, along with other workplaces, were under inspection OSHA program applied to high-risk industries.