OSHA Publishes Vaccination, Testing Mandate
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the new emergency temporary standard (ETS) that will require mandatory COVID-19 vaccination or regular testing for workplaces with 100 or more employees. In addition to proof of vaccination or testing, the ETS also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and to allow for paid leave to recover from any side effects.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on workers, and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases,” says U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “We must take action to implement this emergency temporary standard to contain the virus and protect people in the workplace against the grave danger of COVID-19. Many businesses understand the benefits of having their workers vaccinated against COVID-19, and we expect many will be pleased to see this OSHA rule go into effect.”
The ETS requires employers to do the following:
• Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
• Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria.
• Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for
COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within seven days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
• Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
The ETS does not require employers to pay for testing or for face coverings.
The ETS will cover two-thirds of the nation’s private-sector workforce. In the 26 states and two territories with OSHA State Plans, the ETS also will cover public sector workers employed by state and local governments, including educators and school staff.
The ETS is effective immediately upon today’s publication in the Federal Register. Employers must comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication.
The ETS also serves as a proposal for normal rulemaking for a final standard. OSHA is seeking comment on all aspects of this ETS and whether the agency should adopt it as a final standard.
Dec. 5, 2021, is the compliance date for all ETS policies to be developed and implemented, including paid time off for vaccination and face coverings for unvaccinated employees.
Jan. 4, 2022, is the compliance date for all employees to have received their vaccination, even if they still have not completed the two-week waiting period. Testing for unvaccinated employees also must begin by this date.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) notes that along with other food industry trade associations, it met with representatives from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) about the vaccine mandate, where they requested an exemption for critical infrastructure food companies including dairy processors.
“Disappointingly, the federal government chose not to exempt our industry even as our workforce and supply chains are stretched,” an IDFA spokesperson says. “While we need to more thoroughly evaluate the rule, it is clear that the ETS will create further stress on dairy processors who have worked incredibly hard during the pandemic to ensure the health and safety of their workers. The inability to get enough workers — now vaccinated workers — to keep the food supply chain intact is going to be very, very difficult.”
Clay Detlefsen, chief counsel and regulatory affairs lead, National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), says the ETS closely follows previous guidances released by FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“I think OSHA did a reasonably good job putting this together, but we have some concerns about the mandate — I would rather see people do this voluntarily,” Detlefsen says, also noting that there are concerns in the dairy industry over losing employees at a time when it’s already difficult to find workers.
“The last thing we want to do is make that situation worse,” he says. “A number of us went to talk to the OMB and filed written comments. One thing we asked for is that, if the mandate starts creating further disruptions in the supply chain, we want OSHA to suspend it. Nothing I see provides for that.”
Detlefsen also notes concerns over having enough test kits to fulfill the weekly testing requirements, and whether the definition of “fully vaccinated” could change in the future to require booster doses.
“We’re going to watch this closely, but I would definitely expect some blowback,” he says. “That said, the ag industry has done a wonderful job advocating for people to get vaccinated. They are concerned about food safety and worker safety.”
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Source: Cheese Market News