Illinois lawmakers are worried about the health and safety of frontline workers in the nation’s economy. U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin along with Democrat Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin have introduced legislation to protect workers based off of various reports around the country of unsafe working conditions and preventable infections and deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 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.
The act is to address the 9000 healthcare workers and numerous meat packing employees around the country that have been diagnosed with COVID-19. 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.
OSHA gives the Department of Labor the authority to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard if employees are exposed to grave danger from new hazards. Duckworth and Durbin said repeated calls to to the department have not been returned. The new act would require the standard within 7 days to expand workplace protections. House Democrats have also issued a companion bill.