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OSHA acting head gives update on emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination, testing

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Washington — OSHA is working “expeditiously” on an emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination and testing, acting agency administrator Jim Frederick said during an Oct. 7 webinar hosted by the National Safety Council.

Frederick didn’t provide a time frame for when the ETS might be issued.

“We’re considering the scope and the terms of the potential ETS as described by [President Joe Biden],” Frederick said. “We know that the pandemic will continue to evolve, and we’ll continue to monitor vaccination trend data, variants of the virus and other factors that will guide our continued efforts to ensure workers are protected from the virus while they’re on the job.”

Biden announced Sept. 9 that OSHA is developing an ETS 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.”

Frederick acknowledged that the “expedited nature” of an ETS “unfortunately” doesn’t allow for public comment before its publication. However, he said the ETS essentially serves as a proposed rule and would allow for comments that could guide the drafting of a permanent standard, if OSHA chooses to issue one.

“We do hear everyone,” Frederick said. “We have heard issues from every source possible and are certainly taking into account everything that we can as we move through the process.”

 

Other regulatory news

Frederick also detailed OSHA’s multipronged approach for addressing workplace heat illness – both outdoors and indoors.

The agency intends to implement a national enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards, a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections and an updated heat illness prevention campaign.

An OSHA standard on preventing indoor and outdoor heat illness was in the pre-rule stage, according to the latest Department of Labor regulatory agenda released June 11. That pre-rule is undergoing a required review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Also under OIRA review is a proposed rule that would restore two parts of OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping rules. OSHA will propose that establishments with 250 or more employees provide electronic submissions of their injury and illness data from Forms 300 and 301. The agency currently requires submission of only Form 300A – a yearly summary of injury and illness data – instead of the two more detailed forms. The agency’s Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses final rule, issued in May 2016, required those employers to submit all three forms. Under the Trump administration, OSHA changed the rule in February 2019 to require only Form 300A. A notice of proposed rulemaking is scheduled to be published in December.

OSHA’s rulemaking agenda further includes standards on infectious diseases and workplace violence in health care.

Frederick said the agency is working on a notice of proposed rulemaking for a standard on infectious diseases, and added that a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act review of a standard on workplace violence could take place in the near future.

Updated standards on hazard communication and mechanical power presses are also on OSHA’s radar.