The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) was created in 1970 to put a stop to the tens of thousands of workplace fatalities that happened each year. Since then, the agency has saved the lives of more than 590,000 workers. Still, far too many Americans die, get sick or are injured at work. An estimated 95,000 Americans die annually from work-related diseases, such as cancer due to chemical exposures at work. More than 5,000 Americans are killed at work each year by traumatic events such as falls, vehicle crashes, or being caught in machinery. Employers report almost 3.5 million work-related injuries and illnesses each year, and they do not report all that occur. The true number is at least seven million but could be over 10 million.

Worker safety standards have been significantly weakened over the past few years, leaving all Americans more vulnerable to the Coronavirus pandemic and work related injuries.


OSHA should issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to protect workers from COVID-19, followed by a permanent standard covering infectious diseases in the workplace.

The Defense Production Act and other policy tools should be used to ensure all workers have access to adequate quantities of high quality, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as appropriate training on how to use it.

OSHA should restore the 2016 rule requiring employers to electronically transmit injury and illness data they already collect to OSHA.

Congress should restore OSHA’s ability to issue citations for record keeping violations based on employer records for the past five-and-a-half years.

Policies put in place that weaken the Toxic Substances Control Act should be reversed. Bans should be issued for deadly chemicals such as asbestos, methylene chloride and trichloroethylene.

The 2017 Amendments to the Risk Management Plan Standard should be restored to protect workers and surrounding communities from deadly releases of toxic chemicals.


Regulations designed to prevent the release of toxic gases that harm workers and communities, including the Detroit wastewater facility where a toxic release could expose one million people to chlorine gas, have been weakened over the past few years. OSHA’s ability to keep track of workplace injuries and illnesses, to target enforcement to where it is most needed and to make new needed regulations, has been significantly weakened over the past couple of years.

This assault took its toll on public health preparedness as well:

The Global Disease prevention program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been underfunded for several years. Two years prior to the spread of COVID 19, the entire global health security unit of the National Security Council was dismantled, and the $30 million Complex Crises Fund was eliminated. This fund provided much needed aid to prevent and respond to emerging and unforeseen crises. It is not a coincidence that we found ourselves massively unprepared for the Coronavirus pandemic.

DEMOCRAT – Joseph Biden and Health and Safety

The Obama-Biden Administration created rules to protect workers from two deadly chemicals: respirable crystalline silica and Beryllium.

The Obama-Biden Administration added more than 200 OSHA inspectors. Under Obama-Biden, OSHA issued nearly 1,200 enforcement actions involving serious penalties in its first seven years.

Obama-Biden improved whistleblower protection for workers who suffered retaliation for exercising their health and safety rights. With twice as many successful outcomes as the Bush Administration over a comparable period and triple the amount of money restored to workers (from $38 million awarded total from 2006-2008, versus $108 million awarded from 2012-2105).

In 2009, the Obama-Biden Administration responded successfully to the H1N1 flu epidemic. This successful response is one of the reasons that the epidemic is not well-remembered by many people. One of the things the Obama-Biden Administration did was to task the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with issuing detailed guidance for how employers should protect their workers. OSHA enforced the law based on those guidelines.

After H1N1, the Obama-Biden Administration spent years preparing a new, permanent infectious disease standard, which would have required health facilities and certain other high exposure workplaces to permanently implement infection control programs to protect their workers. It was shelved after 2016.

Biden believes that every worker has the right to return home from work safely. He will:

Encourage union organizing and defend collective bargaining. He believes that unions, representing the many workers that are exposing themselves to hazards to keep Americans safe, provide a critical voice in handling crises. Unions can negotiate for better safety and health protections and provide better health and safety training.

Direct OSHA and other relevant agencies to develop comprehensive strategies for addressing the most dangerous hazards workers encounter in the modern workplace.

Double the number of OSHA investigators to enforce the law and existing standards and guidelines.

The Biden plan calls for:

Directing OSHA to keep frontline workers safe by issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) that requires comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans and gives employers and frontline employees specific, enforceable guidance on what to do to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Finalizing a permanent infectious disease standard.

Working closely with state occupational safety and health agencies and state and local governments, and the unions that represent their employees, to ensure comprehensive protections for frontline workers.

Ensuring all frontline workers have access to adequate quantities of high quality, appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and appropriate training on how to use it.

Expanding workers’ access to effective PPE by fully using the Defense Production Act.

Fully empowering a Supply Commander to coordinate the production and delivery of PPE.


Vote for candidates who have a plan to keep workplaces safe, protect Americans against deadly chemicals, and bring the COVID pandemic under control.

Know how the candidates stand on Health and Safety before you vote.

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