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November 19, 2020
NSC calls for safety pro for COVID-19 team

The National Safety Council (NSC) called for the inclusion of a safety professional on the transition task force advising President-Elect Joe Biden on issues surrounding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the SAR-CoV-2 virus.

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On November 9, the Biden-Harris transition team announced the formation of the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board to advise the president-elect and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris.

The NSC urged Biden to ensure there is a workplace safety expert on his COVID-19 task force, the group said in a November 17 statement. The group feels that the importance of having a workplace safety professional on the task force alongside medical and public health professionals cannot be overstated.

The NSC reminded the president-elect that employers play a pivotal role in curbing the spread of the virus through employee screening, testing, and contact tracing. The NSC also emphasized employers’ need for consistent workplace health guidance, pointing to its own analysis of state actions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic that concluded only nine states released comprehensive employer guidelines during the pandemic.

The group concluded that California, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah had produced comprehensive guidelines, while seven states—Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Missouri–were “off track.”

Much of California’s employer guidance was jointly issued by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).

The NSC attempted to supplement state efforts last spring and summer by forming a Safe Actions for Employee Returns (SAFER) task force to provide guidance for reopening workplaces as states began lifting stay-at-home orders. The task force included the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP), and several other groups.

The groups’ recommendations covered a number of employer concerns, ranging from buildings, facilities, and operations to hygiene and infection control practices, as well as legal and Human Resources issues.

The Biden-Harris COVID-19 task force is co-chaired by Dr. David Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration; Dr. Vivek Murthy, a former Surgeon General and vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps; and Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine and an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University.

Other members include:

  • Rick Bright, PhD, former deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services and former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA);
  • Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, an oncologist and vice provost for global initiatives and chair of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania and a former special adviser in the White House Office of Management and Budget; and
  • Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, a surgeon who holds several professorships at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
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