OSHA ETS to Minimize COVID-19 Transmission in the Workplace

On Thursday, November 4, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) with the goal of minimizing COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The ETS is for employees of large employers (100 or more employees).

Who is covered by the ETS? The ETS applies to employers in all workplaces that are under OSHA’s authority and jurisdiction, including the health care industry. However, this standard does not apply in settings where employees provide health care services or health care support services when subject to the requirements of the CMS health care ETS.

Are remote workers subject to the requirements? The ETS does not apply to employees who do not report to a workplace where other individuals are present. However, even though the employee does not report to the workplace, the individual counts toward the count of employees.

When is this rule effective? The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in the federal register. The deadline to be vaccinated from COVID-19 is January 4, 2022. By that point, workers must be fully vaccinated, completing a two-dose regimen of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Do you have to be vaccinated to comply with this regulation? No, you do not. However, if an employee decides to not be vaccinated by January 4, 2022, the employee must provide weekly test results to their employees at their own expense. Additionally, workers who remain unvaccinated will be required to wear a mask at work.

Information an employer must supply. The ETS requires employers to provide employees information in understandable language and literacy about: 1) information about the requirements of the ETS and workplace policies and procedures; 2) the CDC document “Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines,” 3) information about protections against retaliation and discrimination; and 4) information about laws that provide for criminal penalties for knowingly suppling false statements or documentation.

Is this rule being challenged in court? Yes, on Friday, November 5, 2021, 26 states filed suit challenging the ETS regarding COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements issued by OSHA. In response, a federal appeals court halted the vaccine mandate for businesses. Timeline for when this rule will be litigated remains unclear, but that this time there has been no change to the January 4, 2022, effective date.