Biden administration launches Heat.gov

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
heatgov.jpg

Photo: HEAT.gov

Washington — The creation of a website with heat- and health-related information is one of several measures recently taken by the Biden administration in response to extreme heat “caused by climate change” and its impacts.

Heat.gov, the web portal for the National Integrated Heat Health Information System, is intended to provide real-time data and response resources to “equip local officials and the public with robust and accessible information,” a White House press release states. The website also features resources on extreme heat conditions and preparedness.

Similarly, OSHA is working on a standard that addresses heat illness in outdoor and indoor settings, and published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in October.

In April, the agency launched a National Emphasis Program aimed at protecting workers from outdoor and indoor heat exposure. Since then, OSHA has conducted more than 500 heat-related inspections, focusing on 70 high-risk industries.


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District court blocks COVID-19 vaccine requirement for federal employees

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

Photo: CDC

Galveston, TX — The Biden administration can’t enforce its a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled in a decision issued Jan. 21.

President Joe Biden signed Executive Order 14043 on Sept. 9. The order initially gave federal employees until Nov. 30 to get vaccinated or obtain an exemption. That deadline was pushed back to the new year. During oral arguments made over the telephone Jan. 13, the two sides “agreed that the soonest any plaintiff might face discipline would be Jan. 21.”

In his decision, Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown writes that although the court believes in COVID-19 vaccinations and “the federal government’s power, exercised properly, to mandate vaccinations for its employees,” a key question remained. That is “whether the president can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment?”

He concludes, in part, that because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision on OSHA’s emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination, testing and masking, the executive order was “a bridge too far.”

Brown also writes that the federal government could apply “less restrictive measures,” such as part- or full-time remote work, masking, and physical distancing.

“The government has not shown that an injunction in this case will have any serious detrimental effect on its fight to stop COVID-19,” the judge writes. “Moreover, any harm to the public interest by allowing federal employees to remain unvaccinated must be balanced against the harm sure to come by terminating unvaccinated workers who provide vital services to the nation.”

Brown also notes that a Dec. 9 press release from the White House states that the lowest vaccination rate among federal employees was 88%.

During a Jan. 21 press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that 98% of federal workers are in compliance. “Obviously, we are confident in our legal authority here,” she said.

The Department of Justice has filed an appeal, according to multiple published reports. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, would have jurisdiction in that appeal.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

How will Biden’s vaccine mandate impact workers, companies?

First published by Reuters

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced new mandates on Thursday to spur Americans who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 to get a shot. The measures apply to more than 100 million workers, but it is not known how many of those are already vaccinated.

Here is a look at what the measures do and do not do:

WHO DOES IT COVER?

That would cover an estimated four million federal employees and workers on government contracts.

In addition, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue a rule using emergency authority in the coming weeks to require employers with more than 100 employees to ensure their workers get vaccinated or get tested weekly. That would have an impact on some 80 million private sector workers.

OSHA said the new Emergency Temporary Standard will also “apply to public sector state and local government workers, including educators and school staff, in the 26 states and two territories with a state OSHA plan.”

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will further issue a rule requiring vaccinations for workers in most healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement, including hospitals, dialysis centers, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies – about 17 million healthcare workers. It estimated more than half of them – 64% of hospital staff, 62.7% of nursing home staff, and 54.7% of workers at dialysis facilities – have already been vaccinated.

HOW LONG DO WORKERS AND EMPLOYERS HAVE TO COMPLY?

Federal workers have roughly 75 days to get themselves vaccinated, the White House indicated.

For healthcare workers, the CMS is issuing a so-called interim final rule, which becomes effective immediately upon official publication, in mid-to-late October.

The agency has urged all workers who are not currently vaccinated to begin the process immediately.

The clock for private sector workers doesn’t start ticking until the Department of Labor actually issues its rule, expected in coming weeks. After that, they are likely to have a period of 50 to 90 days to comply, officials said.

ARE THERE ANY EXEMPTIONS?

The federal employee mandate includes “limited exceptions for legally recognized reasons, such as disability or religious objections,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination against any employee based on an “individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” A very small number of religious groups in the United States have a theological objection to vaccines, which they say interfere with divine providence.

The vaccines are not recommended for people with allergies to some ingredients.

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO COMPLY?

Federal workers who refuse to get vaccinated will first receive counseling and ultimately face termination if they persist in refusing.

Companies that don’t comply with the rule could be fined nearly $14,000 per violation.

It is not immediately clear how the CMS can enforce compliance, but the agency has the authority to terminate agreements with entities that violate its regulations.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.

Biden says OSHA will issue an emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination, testing

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication
Washington — OSHA is developing an emergency rule that will require employers with at least 100 workers to “ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week,” President Joe Biden announced Sept. 9.

The announcement was made on the same day the president signed Executive Orders requiring federal employees and most federal contractors to be vaccinated. Additionally, nursing home, hospital, home health care facility and other medical facility workers – who treat Medicare or Medicaid patients – are now required to be vaccinated.

“Some of the biggest companies are already requiring [vaccines],” Biden said. “The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America.”

The emergency rule will require covered employers to give workers paid time off to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Biden said.

A recent survey conducted by the National Safety Council found that employer-required vaccinations resulted in a 35% increase in the number workers who got a shot(s), according a Sept. 10 press release from the nonprofit organization.

“With the nation’s death toll nearing 650,000 lives lost, we must double down on evidence-based solutions – COVID-19 vaccinations – to keep people safe,” NSC President and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said. “Employers are widely trusted by their workers and can play a pivotal role in increasing vaccination rates of people throughout the country to save lives, from the workplace to anyplace.”

In a statement issued Sept. 9, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, said the president had “no business issuing a burdensome vaccine regulation that will further harm overworked and struggling business owners.”

The National Association of Manufacturers, which represents more than 14,000 U.S. businesses, said it looks forward to working with the administration “to ensure any vaccine requirements are structured in a way that does not negatively impact the operations of manufacturers that have been leading through the pandemic to keep Americans safe.”

Meanwhile, Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, an advocacy group, called the mandate a “missed opportunity” to expand COVID-19 prevention plans to all workplaces. An OSHA emergency temporary standard, which went into effect in June, applies only to health care settings. In addition, National COSH Co-Executive Director Jessica Martinez notes that physical distancing, improved ventilation, shift rotation and personal protective equipment are “important components of an overall plan to reduce risk and stop the virus,” but are missing from Biden’s plan.

Employers who have questions about implementing a vaccine requirement or providing other safety measures can consult resources from SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns – an NSC initiative aimed at developing industry- and risk-specific resources and recommendations for employers.


McCraren Compliance offers many opportunities in safety training to help circumvent accidents. Please take a moment to visit our calendar of classes to see what we can do to help your safety measures from training to consulting.