Q: Do you anticipate any changes with OSHA and how it conducts inspections now that we have a new presidential administration?
A: There was no doubt the new administration would bring sweeping changes to federal agencies, including at the Department of Labor.
His first week in office, President Biden directed OSHA to issue revised guidance for employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. OSHA was also asked to determine whether any emergency, temporary standards need to be issued, adding those standards would need to be published by March 15, 2021.
In regards to inspections, OSHA was instructed to target the worst violators and develop strategies for the most dangerous workplace hazards, including increasing COVID precautions.
We will have to wait and see how additional changes play out. On the campaign trail, President Biden suggested he would seek an increase of inspectors after the number of inspectors fell to less than 800 during President Trump’s administration. More inspectors mean more inspections; more inspections likely lead to more citations and fines. This potential increase in regulations, inspections and fines should encourage employers to look at their programs and prepare for the inevitable OSHA inspection.
The Biden administration is looking to place Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh as the Secretary of Labor. Walsh has a deep history with the Union; he joined the Laborer’s’ Union at age 21. He will undoubtedly make his own mark with potentially more changes at OSHA.
Though much of this is speculative, if the few weeks are any indication of what the future holds, I expect a renewed focus and mission from OSHA in the coming year.