On June 10, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it will issue an emergency temporary standard to protect healthcare workers from contracting coronavirus. For other businesses, including construction, the agency updated existing guidance but will allow those sectors to continue best practices designed specifically for their industries.
The new standard targets workers facing the highest coronavirus hazards, such as direct exposure and treatment of COVID patients. Those industries outside of the few named within the standard are largely unaffected.
The American Road & Transportation Builders & Association (ARTBA) issued a press release in response to the announcement, applauding OSHA for granting transportation construction contractors and other businesses the flexibility to adopt COVID-19 protocols that fit their specific workplaces.
“[OSHA’s] announcement is a well-reasoned approach that will let the transportation construction industry continue to provide safety protections tailored to its workers as they build our roads and keep our country moving during the COVID pandemic,” said David Bauer, ARTBA president and CEO.
Most construction workers, including those in the transportation sector, work primarily outdoors. Guidance by the Centers for Disease Control, issued in mid-May, relaxed requirements for wearing face coverings and other health protocols for workers who are fully vaccinated – a welcome reprieve particularly for those working in extreme heat and other conditions where masks can prove especially challenging.
According to ARTBA, OSHA's decision not to create a nationwide ETS applying to all industries acknowledges the drawbacks of a "one size fits all" approach to new COVID-19 regulations. This is a successful outcome to ARTBA’s efforts, dating back to December, urging the Biden Administration to "consider the specific attributes and existing safety protocols of particular industries, with the objective of not undermining those protections to the detriment of their workers."