On Thursday, June 10, 2021, OSHA issued its first Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in 38 years, providing long-awaited guidance for health care settings that deal directly with patients suspected or confirmed to be COVID-19 positive. This ETS will remain in effect until a permanent standard is in place or OSHA determines there is no longer a grave danger to the covered workforce.
UPDATE: Cal/OSHA Withdraws June 3, 2021 revised ETS. In a special meeting held on the evening of June 9, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Board met to consider the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and California Department of Public Health regarding masking. The Board voted unanimously to withdraw the revisions to Cal/OSHA’s revised ETS that they had voted to approve on June 3, 2021, and that were set to go into effect on June 15, 2021 (pending approval from the Office of Administrative Law). In a press release, Cal/OSHA stated that it will review the new mask guidance, bring any recommended revisions to the Board and that the Board could consider new revisions at a future meeting, perhaps as early as the regular meeting on June 17, 2021. In the meantime, the Cal/OSHA’s ETS adopted in November of 2020 will continue to remain in effect. Faegre Drinker will continue to monitor and provide insights with respect to Cal/OSHA’s revised ETS as well as other COVID-19-related topics. Insights will be updated on the firm’s COVID-19 Resource Center.
On Monday, May 17, 2021, on the heels of the CDC relaxing mask and distancing restrictions for fully vaccinated people, OSHA revisited its previous guidance recommending face coverings in the workplace. While the agency noted that it is still evaluating the new guidelines, OSHA provisionally advised employers to refer to the CDC for workforce safety measures for fully vaccinated workers.
The year 2021 continues the trend of increasing regulation of the workplace by state and local governments. Several new and revised state and local workplace regulations are effective, including several developments relating to discrimination. This update reviews these new requirements and recaps Q1 state and local employment law developments to help you and your organization stay in compliance.
For the full alert, visit the Faegre Drinker website.
On March 12, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) designed to “significantly reduce or eliminate worker exposures to [COVID-19]” by targeting specific “high-hazard industries or work tasks” with greater frequency of close contact between workers for on-site inspections, outreach, and compliance assistance related to COVID-19 prevention and response measures. While federal OSHA’s NEP technically does not apply to state plans, OSHA is strongly encouraging them to do so; and state plans must submit within 60 days a notice of intent indicating whether they intend to adopt same or similar initiatives.
The NEP specifically targets certain industries based on public enforcement data, such as complaints, inspections and COVID-19-related violations, where the data reflects that workers are expected to perform tasks associated with exposure to COVID-19. The NEP lists numerous “primary” targets, which are divided up as either healthcare or non-healthcare employers.
As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely accessible, and certain localities relax COVID-19 restrictions, employers hoping to ramp up on-site operations or reduce absenteeism face a new challenge: navigating employee vaccination. Employers are evaluating whether to mandate, strongly suggest or simply remain neutral regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and on-site work.
The considerations surrounding workplace vaccination programs are complex. Business justifications and accommodation issues, potential public relations and employee relations pitfalls, the impact of vaccination on workforce safety procedures, litigation risks on multiple fronts — these are just the beginning. To help piece together this business and regulatory puzzle, we have compiled a list of issues organizations should consider as they set policy and communication plans regarding on-site work and COVID-19 vaccines. We have also identified issues to consider with regard to the practical application of any such policy and the development of related communications to employees or others.