• Information Date
  • Presented To
    COVID-19 Guidance Press Call
  • Speaker(s)
    James Frederick

As prepared for delivery

Jim Frederick
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor
for Occupational Safety and Health

COVID-19 Guidance Press Call
January 29, 2021

Thank you Tricia.  Stopping the spread and protecting workers from COVID-19 is without question the only way to get the economy moving in the right direction.

OSHA’s updated guidance is designed to do just that – to provide a roadmap for businesses to protect the health of their workers, which must be our and their top priority.

The biggest takeaway from the updated guidance is that implementing a COVID-19 prevention program is the most effective way to reduce the spread of the virus.

Employers should implement COVID-19 Prevention Programs tailored to their workplace. 

The most effective programs engage workers and their representatives in their development, and include the following key elements:

  • conducting a hazard assessment;   
  • identifying a combination of measures that will limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace;   
  • adopting measures to ensure that workers who are infectious or potentially infectious are excluded from the workplace;   
  • implementing protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-related concerns; and   
  • educating and training workers of COVID-19 policies and procedures in a language they understand.  

The guidance provides additional details on key measures for limiting the spread of COVID-19, starting with:

  • separating and sending home infected or potentially infected people from the workplace; 
  • implementing physical distancing;
  • suppressing the spread by using surgical masks or cloth face coverings; and 
  • use of personal protective equipment.  

OSHA will continue to update this guidance over time to reflect developments in science, best practices, and standards, and will keep track of changes to ensure transparency.

The revised guidance is just the first step.  President Biden’s Executive Order directs OSHA to also:

  • consider whether any emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 is necessary, and if so, to issue by March 15;
  • review OSHA’s enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 and identify any changes that could better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement;
  • launch a national enforcement program related to COVID-19 to focus OSHA’s efforts on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to anti-retaliation principles; and
  • engage with labor unions, community organizations, and industries on a multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers and their representatives of their rights, placing a special emphasis on communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

As part of the President’s Executive Order, we will also:

  • coordinate with States that operate their own occupational safety and health plans (the OSHA State Plan states) to ensure that workers covered by those plans are adequately protected from COVID-19;
  • in States without such plans, OSHA will consult with State and local government entities to bolster protection from COVID-19 for public sector workers; and
  • consult with other federal departments and agencies (such as HHS, Agriculture, and Transportation) to explore ways to protect workers whose safety and health are not currently covered, so that they too can remain healthy and safe on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a lot of work to do to re-affirm OSHA’s commitment to worker safety and re-establish trust that OSHA is advocating for workers – including those most vulnerable to the risks of COVID-19.  

I cannot thank enough the staff who have worked tirelessly on this guidance, and who will continue to work hard as we do everything possible to assure that every worker is protected, so the nation’s economy can get back to business, safely.

Please help us share this guidance as widely as possible, and let us know if there are ways we can help you get the message out.