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  • OSHA: COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS)to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The ETS establishes binding requirements to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees from the risk of contracting COVID-19 in the workplace. 

    COVID-19 was not known to exist until January 2020, and since then nearly 745,000 people, many of them workers, have died from the disease in the U.S. alone. At the present time, workers are continually becoming seriously ill and dying as a result of occupational exposures to COVID-19. OSHA expects that the Vaccination and Testing ETS will result in approximately 23 million individuals becoming vaccinated. The agency has conservatively estimated that the ETS will prevent over 6,500 deaths and over 250,000 hospitalizations. In issuing the ETS, OSHA has made several important determinations: 

    An ETS is Necessary:

    Workers are becoming seriously ill and dying as a result of occupational exposures to COVID-19, when a simple measure, vaccination, can largely prevent those deaths and illnesses. The ETS protects these workers through the most effective and efficient control available – vaccination – and further protects workers who remain unvaccinated through required regular testing, use of face coverings, and removal of all infected employees from the workplace. OSHA also concludes, based on its enforcement experience during the pandemic to date, that continued reliance on existing standards and regulations, the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, and workplace guidance, in lieu of an ETS, is not adequate to protect unvaccinated employees from COVID-19. Thus, OSHA has also determined that an ETS is necessary to protect unvaccinated workers from the risk of contracting COVID-19 at work. The evidence for the need for the ETS is in Section III.B.of the ETS preamble. 

    The ETS is Limited to Employers with 100 or More Employees:

    In light of the unique occupational safety and health dangers presented by COVID-19, and against the backdrop of the uncertain economic environment of a pandemic, OSHA is proceeding in a stepwise fashion in addressing the emergency this rule covers. OSHA is confident that employers with 100 or more employees have the administrative capacity to implement the standard’s requirements promptly, but is less confident that smaller employers can do so without undue disruption. OSHA needs additional time to assess the capacity of smaller employers, and is seeking comment to help the agency make that determination. Nonetheless, the agency is acting to protect workers now in adopting a standard that will reach two-thirds of all private-sector workers in the nation, including those working in the largest facilities, where the most deadly outbreaks of COVID-19 can occur. Additional information on the scope of the ETS is found in Section VI.B. of the ETS preamble.

    Understanding the ETS 

    • Employers covered by the ETS. The ETS generally applies to employers in all workplaces that are under OSHA’s authority and jurisdiction, including industries as diverse as manufacturing, retail, delivery services, warehouses, meatpacking, agriculture, construction, logging, maritime, and healthcare. Within these industries, all employers that have a total of at least 100 employees firmor corporate-wide, at any time the ETS is in effect, are covered. 
    • Workplaces not covered by the ETS. This standard does not apply to workplaces covered under the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors or in settings where employees provide healthcare services or healthcare support services when subject to the requirements of the Healthcare ETS (29 CFR 1910.502).
    • Employees of covered employers not subject to the requirements. The ETS does not apply to employees who do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present, employees while they are working from home, or employees who work exclusively outdoors.
    • Effective Dates. The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in Federal Register. To comply, employers must ensure provisions are addressed in the workplace by the following dates:
      • 30 days after publication: All requirements other than testing for employees who have not completed their entire primary vaccination dose(s)
      • 60 days after publication: Testing for employees who have not received all doses required for a primary vaccination 
    The full text on the ETS may be found here: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2
    And the full summary here: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/publications/OSHA4162.pdf.