New Pandemic Workplace Protections Welcomed, but Food System Workers Need Vaccinations Too, Scientists Say

Statement by Sarah Reinhardt, Senior Food Systems & Health Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Jan 21, 2021

WASHINGTON (January 21, 2021)—Today, the Biden administration announced a new Executive Order that directs the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to revise guidance to employers on workplace safety within two weeks and focus enforcement on the worst violations. OSHA was also given until March 15 to determine whether an Emergency Temporary Standard that requires masks in the workplace is necessary.

Below is a statement from Senior Food Systems & Health Analyst Sarah Reinhardt at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The new administration’s swift action today is a step in the right direction to make sure all workers, especially frontline workers in our food system, don’t have to continue working in dangerous, overcrowded conditions.

“This order does not explicitly cover food and farmworkers, and it comes too late for the more than 50,000 workers in the food industry who have contracted COVID and the 250 people, by conservative estimates, who have died. Yet hundreds more lives will be saved if adequate protections, like workplace mask requirements, are issued and enforced by OSHA.

“Furthermore, the USDA must implement the bipartisan worker protection provisions in the recent COVID-19 assistance package, and President Biden and state governments must prioritize pandemic safety and vaccinations of farmworkers and meat and poultry processing plant workers to protect them, their families and communities from this deadly virus.”