On November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) released its much-anticipated COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are either vaccinated by January 4, 2022, or submit to weekly testing. According to OSHA, employees who are unvaccinated face a “grave danger” from COVID-19, including the more contagious Delta variant. The ETS notes that COVID-19 is highly transmissible—particularly in workplaces where multiple people interact throughout the day often for extended periods of time—and exposure to COVID-19 can result in death or illness, with some individuals experiencing long-term health complications. OSHA has determined that vaccination is the most effective way to protect these employees.
The ETS will take effect immediately upon publication in the Federal Register, which is scheduled for November 5, 2021. The ETS will apply in those states where OSHA is responsible for regulating workplace safety and health. Per OSHA regulations, states that have their own OSHA-approved occupational safety and health plans will have 15 days to notify OSHA of the action they will take and 30 days to adopt the ETS or promulgate standards that OSHA considers at least as effective as its ETS.
The OSHA ETS is part of a sweeping policy of the Biden Administration to get more American workers vaccinated. In addition to this ETS, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) released today a Vaccination Interim Final Rule (“IFR”) requiring workers at healthcare facilities participating in Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated. Both the OSHA and CMS actions follow on the heels of Executive Order 14042 mandating that certain federal contractors and subcontractors require their covered employees to receive vaccinations against COVID-19, with limited exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated for legally-protected reasons, and OSHA’s June 10, 2021 ETS directed toward protecting healthcare workers in particular from COVID-19. Our previous alert on OSHA’s June 10, 2021 ETS is available here, and our alerts regarding Executive Order 14042 are available here. OSHA excludes from coverage under the ETS those employers who are subject to the CMS rule or the Executive Order 14042 mandate.
Although the ETS is very detailed—490 pages in all—the key takeaways and deadlines for compliance are below.
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