President Biden plans on Thursday to direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to release new guidance to employers on protecting workers from Covid-19.
In one of 10 executive orders that he is expected to sign Thursday, the president will ask the agency to step up enforcement of existing rules to help stop the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace and to explore issuing a new rule requiring employers to take certain precautions.
The moves were outlined in a White House fact sheet circulated to the press.
The other executive orders also relate to Covid-19, including orders directing federal agencies to issue guidance for the reopening of schools and to use their powers to accelerate the production of protective equipment and expand access to testing.
Critics accused OSHA of weak oversight under former President Donald J. Trump, especially during the pandemic, when it relaxed record-keeping and reporting requirements related to Covid-19 cases.
Under Mr. Trump, the agency also announced that it would mostly refrain from inspecting workplaces outside of a few high-risk industries like health care and emergency response, and critics complained that its appetite for fining employers was limited. Mr. Biden’s executive order will urge the agency to target “the worst violators,” according to the White House fact sheet.
Union officials and labor advocacy groups have long pleaded with the agency to issue a rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, laying out steps that employers must take to protect workers from the coronavirus. The agency declined to do so under Mr. Trump, but Mr. Biden supported this approach during the campaign.
“We talked about a national standardized strategy for working men and women in this country to function under this cloud of the pandemic,” Rory Gamble, the president of the United Automobile Workers union, said after a meeting with Mr. Biden in mid-November. “He indicated he would do whatever it took.”