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.


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