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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an emergency temporary standard (ETS) to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of contracting COVID-19 by strongly encouraging vaccination. They have issued a shorter “Fact Sheet” to help employers understand the requirements.

Covered employers must develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with an exception for employers that instead adopt a policy requiring employees to either get vaccinated or elect to undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work in lieu of vaccination.

This ETS applies to employers with a total of 100 or more employees at any time the standard is in effect. The ETS is effective immediately upon publication in Federal Register. To comply, employers must ensure provisions are addressed in the workplace by the following dates:

– – 30 days after publication: All requirements other than testing for employees who have not completed their entire primary vaccination dose(s)
– – 60 days after publication: Testing for employees who have not received all doses required for a primary vaccination

The ETS requires employers to:

– – (1) require employees to promptly provide notice when they receive a positive COVID- 19 test or are diagnosed with COVID-19;
– – (2) immediately remove any employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status, who received a positive COVID-19 test or is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed healthcare provider;
– – (3) keep removed employees out of the workplace until they meet criteria for returning to work.

In light of the unique occupational safety and health dangers presented by COVID-19, and against the backdrop of the uncertain economic environment of a pandemic, OSHA is proceeding in a stepwise fashion in addressing the emergency this rule covers.

OSHA needs additional time to assess the capacity of smaller employers, and is seeking comment to help the agency make that determination. Nonetheless, the agency is acting to protect workers now in adopting a standard that will reach two-thirds of all private-sector workers in the nation, including those working in the largest facilities, where the most deadly outbreaks of COVID-19 can occur.

OSHA intends the ETS to address comprehensively the occupational safety and health issues of vaccination, wearing face coverings, and testing for COVID-19. Thus, the standard is intended to preempt States, and political subdivisions of States, from adopting and enforcing workplace requirements relating to these issues, except under the authority of a Federally-approved State Plan.

In particular, OSHA intends to preempt any State or local requirements that ban or limit an employer from requiring vaccination, face covering, or testing. Additional information on the preemption of State and local laws is found in Section VI.A. of the ETS preamble.

OSHA will continue to monitor trends in COVID-19 infections and death as more of the workforce and the general population become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and as the pandemic continues to evolve. Where OSHA finds a grave danger from the virus no longer exists, or new information indicates a change in measures necessary to address the grave danger, OSHA may update this ETS, as appropriate.

Although this ETS takes effect immediately, it also serves as a proposal under Section 6(b) of the OSH Act(29 U.S.C. 655(b)) for a final standard.

Accordingly, OSHA seeks comment on all aspects of this ETS and whether it should be adopted as a final standard. OSHA encourages commenters to explain why they prefer or disfavor particular policy choices, and include any relevant studies, experiences, anecdotes or other information that may help support the comment.