Fighting for Standards that Protect All

September 16, 2020

In the past few weeks, MassCOSH has been extremely busy working to address policy shortfalls that are leaving workers needlessly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. On September 9, MassCOSH submitted well-received public testimony regarding the state’s Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards during a virtual hearing, summarizing that the draft regulations do not provide adequate protection against the spread of COVID-19. MassCOSH also addressed its outrage that teachers and schools are exempt from the protections the state is drafting. Our testimony can be found here. The State has announced that there will be a new hearing on October 14 to discuss the matter further. Please keep an eye out for MassCOSH information on how you can make your voice heard.

MassCOSH is hard at work supporting teachers and school staff in their fight reopen in-person only once is fully safe to do so. On August 19, MassCOSH attended an action called Only When It's Safe! Socially Distant Standout at the State House in Support of Safe & Healthy Schools and Colleges. Using the hashtag #OnlyWhenItsSafe, the action drew attention to demands that Governor Baker establish a uniform requirement for all districts to start the year with a comprehensive distance learning plan. We are also demanding he set clear health and safety standards that must be met for the gradual return of in-person learning, including indoor air quality and ventilation and filtration in school buildings that meet appropriate regulatory and industry standards and rapid COVID-19 testing that is accessible, routine, and free to students and staff.

In the Memorandum of Agreement that the Boston Teachers Union negotiated with the City last week, the Union secured walkthroughs at every school, conducted by teachers and school staff, to confirm that upgrades have been made and that school buildings are safe.  To assist with this effort, MassCOSH held a training for Building Representatives that was attended by over 250 educators.

As part of the Coalition to Safely Reopen Schools, MassCOSH is calling for a phased approach to reopening schools that is informed by science. Currently, there is no solid plan to provide enforcement if school staff find their building is not following the state’s safety protocols, which MassCOSH finds shockingly inefficient to protect students and staff. On August 31, the coalition issued a 16-point position statement that outlined concerns that need to be addressed for the safe in-person learning, including proper ventilation and filtration, resources for cleanliness and mask-wearing, access to rapid COVID-19 testing, appropriate school nurse staffing, isolation spaces for possible COVID cases and safe transportation.