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Executive Order 13999–Protecting Worker Health and Safety

Since being sworn into office, President Biden signed 28 Executive Orders, ranging from climate change to workplace safety.  Executive Order-13999 is designed to Protecting Worker Health and Safety and creates a national priority and moral imperative to keep workers in the United States safe.  There are Four Sections defining this Executive Order:

Section 1 – Policy
“Healthcare workers and other essential workers, many of whom are people of color and immigrants, have put their lives on the line during COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Federal Government is tasked with providing swift action in efforts to reduce the risk of workers contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.  Additionally, this Order will be issuing science-based guidance, in respect to mask-wearing; partnering with State and local government to better protect employees; enforcing worker health and safety requirements; and pushing for additional resources to help employers protect employees. This order will help ensure the integral frontline and proverbial backbone of the employee infrastructure in the United States is protected through policy.

Section 2 – Protecting Workers from COVID-19 Under OSHA-Act
The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor of OSHA, will provide revised guidance with respect to workplace safety, specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. The full update can be found here.

Additional language added includes: (a), issue the update within two weeks of the initial signing of the Executive Order; (b) consideration on the need of emergency temporary standards specific COVID-19 (i.e., masks in the workplace); (c) review the enforcement efforts by OSHA and identify any short-, medium- and long-term changes that could be made to better protect workers and ensure equity in enforcement: (d) launch a national program to focus OSHA enforcement efforts related to COVID-19 on violations that put the largest number of workers at serious risk or are contrary to ani-retaliation principles; (e) coordination with various department to provide multilingual outreach campaign to inform workers of their rights under the applicable law.

Section 3 – Protecting Other Categories of Workers from COVID-19
This cover plans for health and safety under Section 18 of the OSHA-Act (29. U.S.C.667) to seek to ensure that workers are covered by such plans and adequately protected from COVID-19, consistent with the revised guidance or emergency temporary standards issued by OSHA.

In those states that do not have such plans, consult with state and local government entities with responsibility for public employees’ safety & health and with public employee unions to bolster protection from COVID-19 for public sector workers.  Additionally, this section also provides that various departments such as Agriculture, Labor, Health & Human Services, Transportation and Energy and any other agency consult with the heads of appropriate agencies to explore mechanisms to protect workers not protected under the Act, so they remain healthy and safe on the job during the pandemic.  This section also addresses Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for coal, metal & non-metal mining operations.

Section 4 – General Provisions
Like all Executive Orders, protections are put in place as well as additional guidance that can be added to protect the integrity of the Order.  In this case, (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

  • The authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
  • The functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

Furthermore, it goes on to elaborate in (b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to availability of appropriations. (c) This order is not intended to, and do not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Should you have any further questions on this specific workplace safety topic or any other risk management items, please contact Dana Vorholt at dvorholt@sentinelra.com.

Dana Vorholt earned his Master’s degree in Safety and Environmental Management from West Virginia University, and is an accredited Associate of Risk Management. As Director of Risk Management, Dana’s professional passion puts Sentinel clients on the path to workplace safety, compliance and optimal profitability. Vorholt is widely known and well respected in the loss control arena. He provides workplace and occupational safety guidance and training, assuring compliance standards are met for businesses with a diverse set of operational risk portfolios.