OSHA's COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS

COVID-19 was not discovered until January 2020, and almost 745,000 individuals, many of them laborers, have died as a result of it in the United States alone. Workers are currently becoming extremely ill and dying as a result of occupational COVID-19 exposure. The Vaccination and Testing ETS is expected to vaccinate nearly 23 million people, according to OSHA. The ETS is expected to prevent over 6,500 fatalities and 250,000 hospitalizations, according to the agency's estimates. OSHA has made many key decisions in developing the ETS:

OSHA Covid-19 VirusUnvaccinated Workers Are at Risk: Unvaccinated workers are far more likely than vaccinated workers to contract and spread COVID-19 in the workplace. Many employees in the United States who have not been properly vaccinated against COVID-19 are at risk of contracting the virus at work, according to OSHA. The serious health implications associated with virus exposure, as well as evidence confirming the virus's transmissibility in the workplace and the prevalence of infections in employee groups, led to this judgment of grave hazard. Section III.A. of the ETS preamble contains the evidence for identifying a grave danger.

Workers are becoming very ill and dying as a result of occupational COVID-19 exposures, whereas a simple intervention like vaccination can mainly avert those deaths and illnesses. The ETS protects these workers by requiring regular testing, the use of face coverings, and the removal of all infected employees from the workplace. It also protects workers who are not vaccinated by requiring regular testing, the use of face coverings, and the removal of all infected employees from the workplace. OSHA also comes to a conclusion based on its findings. As a result of the pandemic's enforcement experience to date, there has been a continued reliance on existing norms and regulations, the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, and workplace counseling in lieu of new legislation. As a result, OSHA has found that an ETS is required to protect unvaccinated employees from catching COVID-19 at work. Section III.B of the ETS preamble contains evidence for the need for the ETS. 

Employers employing 100 or more employees are exempt from the ETS: Because of the specific occupational safety and health risks posed by COVID-19, as well as the uncertain economic context of a pandemic, OSHA is addressing the emergency this rule addresses in a phased manner. OSHA is sure that enterprises with 100 or more employees will be able to quickly adopt the standard's requirements, but it is less convinced that smaller businesses will be able to do so without causing excessive disruption. OSHA needs more time to examine the capability of small businesses, and it's looking for input to assist it make that decision. Nonetheless, the CDC is taking steps to protect employees now by enacting a standard that will cover two-thirds of all private-sector workers in the country, including those who work in the nation's largest facilities, where COVID-19 outbreaks can be lethal. Section VI.B of the ETS preamble contains more information on the ETS's scope. 

The ETS is Feasible: OSHA has assessed the ETS's feasibility and determined that its standards are both economically and technologically feasible. Section IV. of the ETS preamble contains the evidence for feasibility. The particulars The ETS's requirements are outlined and described in Section VI of the ETS preamble's Summary and Explanation.

The ETS Preempts State and Local Laws: OSHA wants for the ETS to encompass all aspects of occupational safety and health, including vaccination, face coverings, and COVID-19 testing. As a result, the standard is intended to prevent States and political subdivisions of States from enacting and implementing workplace standards related to these issues unless they are authorized by a Federally approved State Plan. OSHA plans to preempt any state or local laws that prohibit or limit an employer's ability to demand vaccination, face covering, or testing. Section VI.A. of the ETS preamble has more information on the preemption of state and municipal laws.

The ETS Also Functions as a Proposed Regulation: Although this ETS takes effect immediately, it also serves as a proposal for a final standard under Section 6(b) of the OSH Act. As a result, OSHA is seeking feedback on all areas of this ETS, as well as how it might be accepted as a final standard. OSHA welcomes commenters to explain why they favor or oppose specific policy choices, as well as to add any relevant research, experiences, anecdotes, or other supporting evidence. Stakeholders can electronically submit comments and attachments to Docket No. OSHA-2021-0007 at www.regulations.gov. To make an electronic submission, follow the steps provided on the website.

OSHA may revise or update the ETS: As more workers and the general public are completely vaccinated against COVID-19 and the pandemic continues to evolve, OSHA will continue to monitor trends in COVID-19 illnesses and deaths. OSHA may update this ETS if it determines that a grave threat from the virus no longer exists or new evidence shows a change in the actions required to address the terrible threat.

This fact sheet summarizes some of the ETS's extra requirements; businesses should refer to the standard for complete details. The ETS is available in its entirety at www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2.

Understanding the ETS

Employers covered by the ETS
The ETS covers employers in all OSHA-regulated workplaces, including manufacturing, retail, delivery services, warehousing, meatpacking, agriculture, construction, logging, maritime, and healthcare. Within these industries, at any time the ETS is in place, all employers with a total of at least 100 employees firm- or corporate-wide are covered.

Workplaces not covered by the ETS. This standard does not apply to workplaces covered by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force's COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors, or to settings where employees provide healthcare or healthcare support services and are subject to the Healthcare ETS's requirements (29 CFR 1910.502).

Employees of covered employers are exempt from the rules. Employees who do not report to a workplace where other people, such as coworkers or customers, are present, employees who work from home, and employees who work completely outdoors are exempt from the ETS.

Deadlines for implementation. The ETS takes effect soon when it is published in the Federal Register. Employers must guarantee that provisions are addressed in the workplace by the following dates in order to comply: o 30 days from the date of publication: Except for testing for personnel who have not received their entire primary vaccine dose, all standards must be met (s) o 60 days from the date of publication: Employees who have not obtained all of the required doses for a primary immunization are tested.

COVID-19: How Can Workers Be Protected?

To counter the high danger of COVID-19 in the workplace, the ETS provides minimum vaccination, vaccination verification, face covering, and testing standards.

The ETS's main needs are:

Vaccination Policy of the Employer
The ETS requires covered employers to develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, with the exception of employers who establish, implement, and enforce a policy that allows two employees who are not fully vaccinated to elect to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.

Determination of employee vaccination status.
Employers must determine each employee's vaccination status, receive appropriate proof of vaccination, keep records of each employee's vaccination status, and keep a roster of each employee's vaccination status, according to the ETS.

Employer support for employee vaccination. Employers must assist vaccination by providing appropriate time, including up to four hours of paid time, for employees to obtain each immunization dose, as well as reasonable time and paid sick leave for employees to recuperate from adverse effects suffered after each dosage, according to the ETS.

COVID-19 testing for employees who are not fully vaccinated. Employees who have not been properly immunized are subjected to COVID-19 testing. Employers must ensure that any person who is not completely vaccinated gets tested for COVID-19 at least once a week (if in the workplace) or within 7 days of returning to work under the ETS (if away from the workplace for a week or longer). Employers are not required to pay for any testing fees under the ETS. Other laws, rules, collective bargaining agreements, or other collectively negotiated agreements may, however, demand employer payment for testing. Furthermore, nothing prevents companies from willingly shouldering the costs of testing.

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

Face shields. Employers must guarantee that each person who is not completely vaccinated wears a facial protection when indoors or outdoors, according to the ETS. Except in some limited instances, when sharing a car with another individual for work purposes. Employers must not ban any employee from wearing a facial covering willingly unless it poses a substantial working hazard (e.g., interfering with the safe operation of equipment).

Employees are given information. Employers are required by the ETS to provide employees with the following information in a language and literacy level that they understand: (1) information about the ETS requirements and workplace policies and procedures established to implement the ETS; (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 supplanting vaccines.

Reporting COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA. Employers must report work-related COVID-19 fatalities to OSHA within eight hours of learning about them, and work-related COVID-19 in-patient hospitalizations to OSHA within twenty-four hours of knowing about them, according to the ETS.

Availability of records. The ETS requires businesses to make an employee's COVID-19 immunization documentation and any COVID-19 test results available for examination and copying to that employee and anyone with that employee's written authorization. Employers must also make the aggregate number of fully vaccinated employees in a workplace, as well as the overall number of employees at that workplace, available to an employee or an employee representative.

Additional Information

Visit www.osha.gov/coronavirus for additional information on:

  • COVID-19 Laws and regulations
  • COVID-19 Enforcement policies
  • Compliance assistance materials and guidance
  • Worker’s Rights (including how/when to file a safety and health or whistleblower complaint).
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