We are doing everything we can to protect front-line workers around the country from the COVID-19 virus. The AFL-CIO has set up a task force at the AFL-CIO that is working around the clock to ensure the safety of working people. The world is on the verge of a pandemic outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the disease is now spreading quickly throughout the United States. The impact of the outbreak already has been far reaching and the threat is growing. Current estimates demonstrate that more than 19 million workers in the United States would have an elevated risk of exposure to the COVID-19 virus in the event of a widespread outbreak, a significant portion of whom could become infected and die.
Health care workers, firefighters, police, airline workers, emergency service workers and other first responders answer the call when an outbreak occurs. They deserve to have the confidence that appropriate resources, equipment, training and protocols are readily available in their workplaces to protect themselves and to avoid infecting other people, including patients, co-workers, the public and their own families when they go home. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has the obligation to ensure the health and safety of all working people, particularly from an infectious disease such as COVID-19.
There is no existing OSHA standard or basic regulatory framework that comprehensively addresses an employer’s responsibility to protect workers from infectious diseases. In the absence of a set of mandatory infection control requirements that employers must implement, there is no assurance that all workers will be protected from infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Unions have been protecting our members on the front lines, and we have highly trained and equipped workers. The COVID-19 outbreak is another tragic reminder that the United States is not prepared to adequately protect our health care workers and first responders from infectious disease. OSHA has the authority and responsibility to protect the health and safety of America’s workers and must act swiftly. The magnitude and urgency of this outbreak cannot be minimized.