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Oregon Turns to Rulemaking for Worker Covid-19 Protections

June 27, 2020, 12:00 AM

Oregon could become the second state to enact rules specifically intended to protect workers from coronavirus infections.

Oregon Occupational Safety and Health aims to enact two emergency temporary rules by Sept. 1 after public meetings, an agency spokesman said Friday.

One rule would cover health-care providers, such as hospitals, while the other rule would address protecting employees in manufacturing, retail, construction, and other general industries. The temporary rules would stay in effect until March 1, 2021, when they would be replaced by permanent regulations, according to the state’s timeline.

The announcement came two days after Virginia’s Safety and Health Codes Board on June 24 decided the state should implement its own rule. The board will consider the temporary rule’s specific provisions June 29 in Richmond, Va.

The states are taking action as leaders at the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Labor have repeatedly said they have no intention of proposing a nationwide emergency rule. Instead, they favor cooperating with federal agencies to issue guidance and using an OSHA law, the general duty clause, to cite employers.

The timeline for Oregon calls for beginning meetings with employer and worker representatives the week of July 6. A draft version of the health-care rule would be available the week of July 20, followed by the general industry rule the week of July 27. By mid-August, “near final” versions of the rules would be available. Enactment would follow on Sept. 1.

Paralleling the emergency rule process, the state would impanel two advisory committees to begin work on permanent rules that Oregon hopes to enact by March 1.

California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is considering a petition from worker advocates to adopt a Covid-19 emergency rule, and later a permanent rule, but as of Friday the board hadn’t reached a decision.

The three states are among 22 that federal OSHA allows to oversee their worker protection programs and create regulations. As of Friday, there were more than 2.4 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and nearly 124,900 deaths from the disease in the U.S.

Democratic lawmakers and presidential candidate Joe Biden (D) have called for a federal rule.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at BRolfsen@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Karl Hardy at khardy@bloomberglaw.com

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