February 8, 2021
Thomas Joseph "Chip" Hughes, Jr.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Emergency & Pandemic Response
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20210
Re: Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety Dear Deputy Assistant Secretary Hughes:
The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is pleased to offer the following comments on President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety. ACOEM is a national medical society representing 4,000 occupational medicine physicians and other health care professionals devoted to promoting optimal health and safety of workers, workplaces, and environments. ACOEM is dedicated to improving the care and well-being of workers through science and the sharing of knowledge.
We are heartened by President Biden’s strong support for worker safety and health, and especially pleased by OSHAs recent Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace
. We agree that the most effective way to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 at work is by requiring Implementation of a written workplace COVID-19 prevention program
, and we support the fifteen-step Prevention Program outlined in the Guidance
In addition, we urge OSHA to include precautionary removal protection (i.e., measures that employers shall take whenever a workplace COVID-19 “outbreak” is identified). Such measures could include worker isolation, quarantine, remote work, masking, and COVID testing. We also urge OSHA to articulate explicit criteria for identifying an “outbreak” and also to establish criteria for determining which workers require such protection. We defer to OSHA to formulate those criteria. The response of employers should be consistent with then current CDC guidance and the recommendations of local public health officials.
We also recommend that employers assist their employees to obtain appropriate COVID-19 related medical services, including recommendations for testing and vaccination, isolation, quarantine, return-to-work, other medical management, and follow-up. Such medical services should be performed by or under the supervision of a physician or licensed health care professional (PLHCP) with expertise in occupational medicine, public health, or infectious disease.
There should also be explicit return-to-work (RTW) criteria, both for workers who become sick and for those who might be removed because of exposure to other infected co-workers. We recognize that there is on-going scientific discussion about the “best” such criteria based on duration of removal and/or COVID-19 test results. However OSHA decides, we ask that you adopt criteria that are specific, unambiguous and consistent with current CDC guidelines.
We extend to you our willingness to contribute, relying on our members’ enthusiasm and expertise, to assist you and OSHA in this important work. Please do not hesitate to ask our help.
Beth A. Baker, MD, MPH, FACOEM
cc: Andrew Levinson, Director, Directorate of Standards and Guidance, OSHA