A House panel advances legislation to protect feds during pandemics

The bill would require agencies to develop workplace safety plans for current and future pandemics, not just COVID-19, and to make them publicly accessible.

The bill would require agencies to develop workplace safety plans for current and future pandemics, not just COVID-19, and to make them publicly accessible. EMS-FORSTER-PRODUCTIONS / Getty Images

The Chai Suthammanont Healthy Federal Workplaces Act proposes to require federal agencies to develop and publish workplace safety plans, to get ready for future pandemics.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday advanced by voice vote legislation aimed at protecting federal workers and agency operations during future pandemics.

The Chai Suthammanont Healthy Federal Workplaces Act (H.R. 8466), introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is the third iteration of a bill requiring federal agencies to develop and publish workplace safety plans for use in the event of a pandemic and is named after a constituent of the Northern Virginia lawmaker who died of COVID-19 after working at a federal facility.

The first version of the bill, which would have required agency workplace safety plans specifically related to COVID-19, passed the House in 2020, but failed to advance in the Senate. The bill was reintroduced in February 2021, but it did not receive a vote on the House floor.

Connolly’s latest crack at the legislation makes the bill more forward-looking, requiring agencies to develop workplace safety plans for current and future pandemics, not just COVID-19, and to make them publicly accessible. Like its predecessors, the bill also requires agency inspectors general to report to Congress on the plans’ implementation, and it requires a report from the Government Accountability Office on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to inform future safety protocols.

“The tragic and infuriating reality is that Chai’s death could have been avoided,” Connolly said. “If the federal government had a plan in place when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Chai may still be alive today. We must learn from this and other losses and ensure that the health and safety of the civil servants whom the American people rely on every single day is prioritized—refusing to do so would be a disservice to Chai’s memory.”

Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., offered an amendment to the bill that he said would ensure workplace safety plans would also include continuity of operations, so that agency services continue amid a future public health crisis. The amendment also was approved by voice vote.

“Unfortunately, we just came out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the focus as far as agencies are concerned has been on permanently increasing the levels of telework and remote working arrangements, but the truth is we need to have a thorough scrub of how agencies’ missions have been impacted by COVID,” Hice said. “In preparing for future health emergencies, employee safety is a key concern, but so is mission accomplishment. The plans this bill calls for must also be made through the lens of maintaining operations and minimizing impacts to customer service.”

Connolly endorsed the amendment before its passage.

“I completely agree that we need to be mission focused,” he said. “We’ve got to protect the workforce, but we also have to provide continuity of operations. We have to figure that out.”

The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration by the entire chamber. A similar bill in the Senate has yet to receive a committee hearing or markup.

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site ("A House Panel Overwhelmingly Advanced Legislation to Protect Federal Workers During Pandemics.") 

NEXT STORY: IRS has funding to hire tens of thousands. Can it do it?

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.