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Letter to the Hon. Lawrence Hogan Jr., Governor of Maryland - Maryland Delegation Members Urge Governor Hogan to Implement Coronavirus Workplace Protections for Marylanders

Letter

Dear Governor Hogan,
We write on behalf of our Maryland constituents, including hundreds of thousands of
essential workers, to request your immediate action in addressing the need for an emergency statewide temporary workplace standard to prevent, contain, and mitigate community spread of
COVID-19. Specifically, we urge you to issue an executive order directing the Maryland
Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) program to develop and implement an enforceable
emergency temporary standard (ETS) that would protect our state's workers, businesses, and their
customers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the country and our state respond to a lethal resurgence of COVID-19 cases and
hospitalizations, it is critical that we put into use lessons learned during the first surge of the
pandemic. We now have a better scientific understanding of how the virus is transmitted and what
precautions individuals must take to prevent infection in both outdoor and indoor settings. We
know that wearing masks and social distancing are effective towards combatting this virus and that
data modeling projects 100,000 lives in the United States can be saved if 95% of the population
wears a mask.
1
In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have issued dozens of industry-specific
guidelines, informational health and safety recommendations on adequate personal protective
equipment (PPE), sanitation, and workplace communication policies that can prevent the spread
of the virus.2 Unfortunately, the COVID-19 federal guidelines recommended by OSHA are
voluntary for employers and not enforceable through penalties and citations.
However, given that Maryland is one of only 22 states with its own occupational safety
agency (MOSH) responsible for both the public and private sector, it is well-situated to leverage
its authority to save lives by issuing an ETS. Several states have issued comprehensive COVID19 workplace protections based on OSHA recommendations that include blanket requirements
(such as protections from retaliation), and industry-specific requirements (such as providing
appropriate PPE in addition to masks and adequate social distancing when possible).3 Our neighboring state of Virginia was the first state4
to issue its own ETS requiring employers to create
policies for workers experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and for communicating workplace
exposure to COVID-19.
5 Virginia's ETS is considerably more comprehensive than Maryland's
updated executive order from October 16, 2020.
6 The October 16th executive order includes some
best practices for businesses in the retail and service industry that serve the general public, but it
fails to outline broader workplace protections such as worker rights to proper COVID-19 trainings,
communications about possible exposure to the virus, safe staffing operations, and sanitation of
all worksites.
In the absence of enforceable standards for COVID-19 workplace protections, the health
and safety of many workers and their families will continue to depend solely on the discretion of
their employers. While many employers have taken this responsibility seriously, others have failed
to provide employees with adequate PPE and cleaning supplies, not enforced social distancing
requirements, or otherwise failed to protect their workers. Almost eight months into the pandemic,
it is unacceptable to not provide adequate PPE, cleaning supplies, or answers to technical questions
by employees. Similarly, employees should not have to continue to weigh the decision of whether
to report their employer for inadequate workplace protections - and possibly lose their jobs out of
retaliation during a pandemic - or risk their health and their families' health working in unsafe
conditions. Given that many of our most essential workers during this pandemic are also those
most vulnerable to workplace abuse and discrimination, it is critical for an ETS to be issued to
empower all workers to understand their rights during this pandemic and establish an efficient and
trustworthy system for reporting concerns of inadequate COVID-19 protocols.
Without a comprehensive state ETS, our constituents who contact MOSH to report
inadequate workplace protections are often referred to their local health departments. Although
Maryland has authorized local health departments to determine whether a business is "unable or
unwilling to operate in a manner that does not pose an unreasonable risk of exacerbating the spread
of COVID-19,"7
county health departments have differed in their interpretations of what poses an
"unreasonable risk" and in interpreting their own enforcement authority. Rather than leaving
significant room for interpretation in the enforcement of life-saving precautions, MOSH should be
required to issue an ETS that is inclusive of industry-specific guidelines (as OSHA has provided),
that requires employers to work with MOSH to implement COVID-19 exposure control plans, and
that requires MOSH to work collaboratively with health departments to enforce such standards
uniformly across all counties.
We hope that you will act to meet the needs of Maryland workers with urgency and
expediency as we are once again depending on their sacrifice to keep our economy and health
system running during a second intensifying wave of this pandemic. Although we are hopeful for
a vaccine soon, there is no question that workers will continue to face the threat of COVID-19
infections until such vaccine is widely available to the public sometime next year. In the meantime,
our workers deserve peace of mind knowing that they have the backing of state resources to advocate for a safe workplace. Again, we urge you to adopt an emergency temporary standard to
protect our state's frontline workers and help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our state.


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