(c) 2010-2024 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Halting Workplace COVID-19 Transmission: An Urgent Proposal to Protect American Workers

A report authored by David Michaels and Gregory R Wagner and published by The Century Foundation highlights the actions needed to strengthen The Occupational Safety and Health Administration {OSHA] in order to make workplaces safer. Today’s post is shared from tif.og

“The United States is facing a massive worker safety crisis. As the COVID-19 pandemic grew in strength, and many workplaces moved to remote work or shut down entirely to avoid the contagion, millions of workers risked their lives by continuing to go into work to care for the nation’s sick and elderly, to help families put food on their tables, to get people to and from work, and ensure public safely. The toll on these essential workers—and on their families and communities—has been enormous. 

"The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), reported as of September 6, 2020, almost 300,000 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections among nursing home staff, of whom 868 have been killed by the disease. “COVID-19 Nursing Home Dataset,” Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, September 17, 2020, Thousands more health care personnel in hospitals have also been sickened; however there is no comprehensive, accurate count of these numbers.” “Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Cases in the U.S.,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "

“As the pandemic has continued, tens of thousands of other workers—emergency responders, corrections officers, transit workers, meat and poultry processing workers, farm workers, grocery store and warehouse workers, and many others—have been sickened and hundreds more of them have died.”

“COVID-19 has had a disproportionate and tragic impact on communities of color: working-age African Americans and Latinx people are at greatly increased risk of the COVID-19 disease and death.3 Much of this increase is driven by employment patterns: racial and ethnic minorities are overrepresented in the essential and frontline jobs that cannot be done by teleworking from home. The jobs held by these workers put them in close contact with other workers and the public, and they are often given inadequate respirators or other personal protective equipment (PPE). Many of these workers travel to and from work in crowded public or semi-private transportation. Since the virus does not stop at the door of the factory or nursing home or prison or subway car, these workers bring the pandemic into their homes and communities.”


  • Workplace exposures play a central role in spreading of SARS-CoV-2 and continuing the pandemic. Workers are at greatly increased risk of COVID-19.
  • Hundreds of thousands of workers have been sickened, and hundreds killed, because of on-the-job exposures.

  • COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color, in part because many of the workers who care for our sick and elderly, ensure food is on our table, goods are on store shelves and delivered to our homes, and who operate public transportation are members of racial or ethnic minorities, and often immigrants. These workers are exposed to COVID-19 at work and then bring the infection home to their families and communities.

  • The federal government has no national plan to control workplace exposures to the virus. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the primary government agency charged with ensuring workers are safe on the job, but it has not taken an active role in stemming the pandemic. Faced with thousands of complaints by workers exposed to this virus, the Trump administration has elected not to scale up OSHA’s authority, budget, or enforcement activities.

  • Although the law requires all employers to provide workplaces free from recognized hazards, President Donald Trump’s appointed leadership of the Department of Labor has chosen to use OSHA to make recommendations and provide voluntary guidance to employers rather than mandating and enforcing worker protections.

  • As much of the nation looks to reopen, the federal government has done little to coordinate the efforts of its departments and agencies to reduce workplace transmission of the virus. Federal political leadership has failed to take advantage of the wealth of experienced public health scientific expertise available to fight the pandemic and, instead, has repeatedly undercut scientifically sound communication and advice. Faced with these failures, some states are taking steps to require employers to better protect workers.

  • This report argues for reinvigorating OSHA as the centerpiece of a national effort—to be directed by the federal government, working in close coordination with state and local public health authorities—for stopping workplace transmission of COVID-19.

Click here to read more.

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation

Twitter: jongelman

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters