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Federal Government Working On Mask Regulations For Workers

Federal government working on mask regulations for workers

A federal agency is looking into whether masks need to be used at workplaces in the US on which a decision is due as the deadline for the decision approaches. The issue concerns an executive order by President Biden.

On his first full day in office, January 21, President Joe Biden, signing an executive order, asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, to consider whether any new standards, of a temporary nature, were required for the protection of workers from Covid-19. 

Federal government working on mask regulations for workers

Included in the measures were masks in workplaces, if necessary, according to the order and such standards needed to be introduced by March 15.

Federal government working on mask regulations for workers

According to commentators, OSHA would have very different requirements for Covid-19 than that of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the White House. 

OSHA, which is a regulatory agency under the US Department of Labor, is tasked with setting and enforcing standards to secure safe working conditions.

That mandate extends to all Americans across all 50 states. The reach of OSHA’s requirements extends across local shops, factory floors to large corporates. Non-compliance with any OSHA requirement could invite fines, legal liability and time in jail.

A federal mandate on masks across workplaces was unprecedented, according to commentators. Workers and healthcare professionals had respiratory protection for work in hazardous environments earlier. But the majority of the American workforce was out of the purview of the protection measures.

In its guidance, issued earlier this year, OSHA called on employers to implement measures against the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace, but they were not mandated to act. But this could soon change, according to commentators.

A federal OSHA workplace mask regulation would apply to states that no longer required face coverings or had relaxed Covid-19 restrictions.

According to a US Department of Labor spokesperson who spoke to CNN, OSHA was considering the need for a temporary emergency standard, or any new rules and regulations, to better protect workers during the pandemic.

Included under it were face masks, and OSHA was considering the use of the first efficiency standard for consumer masks that could guarantee quality and effectiveness. The standards were published recently by an international standards organization, ASTM International.

According to a US Department of Labor spokesperson who spoke to CNN Wednesday, as OSHA studied this potential action, it would take into consideration the recent ASTM standard pertaining to barrier face coverings and the potential it offered for providing the most effective personal protective benefits.

 In its first national mask standard for consumers, published recently, ASTM international had set out requirements for minimum fit, performance, and design. It had also laid down requirements for testing and instructions for users.

The masks would also need a permanent product tag and package labelling. The standards also require that manufacturers test the facial coverings they manufacture in accredited labs for performance certification. They would also need to register their products and use a labelling system outlined by ASTM on their products.

No standards were earlier in place for consumer masks, though the US health department had recommended masks to help prevent coronavirus spread.

While many Americans had been at work through the pandemic, some Americans had not yet returned to their workplace as the Covid-19 threat continued. To ensure the safety of workers, OSHA was in the process of expanding workplace safety complaints to include Covid-19 protection issues.

According to a Department of Labor spokesperson who spoke to CNN Wednesday, the agency was preparing for the implementation of a national emphasis program that focused on violations that jeopardized the safety of the largest number of workers from coronavirus or ran counter to anti-retaliation principles. 

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