President Joe Biden speaks about the American Rescue Plan, a coronavirus relief package, in the Rose Garden of the White House on March 12, 2021.
The Biden administration missed its self-imposed deadline to issue temporary mask standards for workplaces as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration tries to determine whether an emergency order is needed to protect workers from the coronavirus, according to a report.
President Biden in an executive order on Jan. 21 directed the government “consider whether any emergency temporary standards on COVID-19, including with respect to masks in the workplace, are necessary, and if such standards are determined to be necessary, issue them by March 15, 2021.”
But no standard was issued Monday, Fox News reported.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged that the administration has blown the deadline, but she said OSHA has yet to make a determination as she responded to a question about whether the regulation would harm businesses already struggling to survive.
Psaki, at Monday’s White House briefing, said Biden signed the order “because he wants to ensure that workers are, of course, safe. He’s asked the American people to do their part to help quickly beat the virus, and he’s directed OSHA to determine if any emergency — if an emergency temporary standard was necessary to protect workers from COVID.”
“OSHA has been working diligently, but we, of course, believe they should have the time to get it right and time to ensure it’s right, and so we’re waiting for them to make a conclusion,” she told reporters about the standard that would last for six months.
Absent a standard from the federal government, many states have created their own standards.
Dr. David Michaels, a former assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said an emergency temporary standard must be looked at from both sides — the need to protect workers and the cost for businesses.
“OSHA has to show that the precautions required by the standard are effective in preventing exposure while at the same time being economically and technically feasible for employers,” Michaels, who worked on Biden’s transition team, told CBS News.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been working diligently, as appropriate, to consider what standards may be necessary, and is taking the time to get this right,” a Labor Department spokesperson told the outlet.
But the official offered no timeline.
Emergency temporary standards are often challenged in court.
The most recent one issued by OSHA in 1983 to reduce asbestos in the workplace, was struck down in federal court.