Workers Largely Exposed to Micro Dangers

June 22, 2020

On May 18, MassCOSH issued failing grades to Governor Baker’s Reopening Massachusetts plan because of its failure to adequately protect workers and the public. Now, as Massachusetts moves quickly to reopen the State, thousands of workers are heading back to their jobs with only minimal workplace health and safety standards in place, treated no better than expendable commodities. Saying exposure is just part of the job is unacceptable. All workers must be protected from coronavirus, their lives literally depend on it, and so do ours. 
With the support of our Health Tech Committee, MassCOSH has provided extensive recommendations, backed by data and science, to the Governor’s Reopening Advisory Board. Of significant concern is new information pointing to aerosol transmission as a dominant route for the spread of COVID-19. The State’s Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces provides little if any protection from this route of exposure, focusing more on large droplets and surfaces. Stronger, enforceable health and safety protections that include protections from aerosol transmission of micro-droplets of the virus are needed to prevent workers, their families, and their communities from getting ill.
In another blow to workers, the State has tasked Local Boards of Health (LBOH) with enforcing its Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces without providing any additional resources, training, or even input into the process. In fact, guidelines provided by the State actually undermine LBOH’s authority to apply higher safety standards and/or close businesses that they believe are endangering workers and the public. Further, workers must issue a complaint to get any action, yet there is little information available for workers on how to take this action. 
Fortunately, the Massachusetts Attorney General has stepped in to help and workers can now submit complaints on their website here or via phone by calling their hotline at 617-727-3465.  The Attorney General’s office will call employers to get more information and then pass on the complaint to Local Boards of Health or other agencies where appropriate.