Photo: Tennessee Labor & Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord; Photo Credit: Vivan Jones / The Center Square
The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
The commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development said he will not rescind an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule regarding COVID-19 mitigation efforts in health care facilities.
Commissioner Jeff McCord wrote in a letter to the Joint Government Operations Committee that the agency, statutorily, cannot authorize the “withdrawal or stay of a rule once the rule becomes effective.”
The committee read the rule and gave it a negative recommendation Monday while asking Tennessee’s OSHA department to rescind the rule.
The temporary rule, in effect from Aug. 24 to Feb. 20, requires health care businesses of 10 or more employees to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment and create a written COVID-19 mitigation plan, which includes cleaning and training measures.
Many members of the legislative committee also were concerned about what will come after this rule, which the OSHA instituted in June and required states to institute. They spoke about President Joe Biden’s rule that would require businesses to have employees vaccinated against COVID-19.
“The elephant in the room is the coming OSHA rule that I’m going to have some issues with, and I’m going to believe other people on the committee are going to have issues with as well,” Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said. “And I hope that your department, and I hope that the administration, is already thinking about the consequences of that and, possibly, what legal steps we can take.”
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Tennessee is one of 28 states with its own OSHA department. Representatives from the department said Monday if Tennessee did not enforce the rule, the federal OSHA could take over operations of OSHA in Tennessee.
“As TN-OSHA navigates multiple federal OSHA efforts and initiatives it is increasingly important that TN-OSHA remain in full standing as a State Plan without inviting additional federal oversight, federal interpretation, and federal enforcement of safety and health standards in Tennessee,” McCord’s letter read. “As a fully functioning State Plan, TN-OSHA is better positioned to effectively address more comprehensive federal efforts on behalf of Tennessee.”
Three of the 28 states with their own department have received the federal warning letter. South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster vowed Wednesday to fight OSHA legally.
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.