WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite the temporary suspension of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more workers, it appears the Biden Administration is nonetheless eyeballing the possibility of extending the mandate in the future to encompass smaller businesses as well.
According to The Daily Wire, OSHA opened a public comment period earlier this month for their recently-released Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) text – which typically features new rules governing the workplace – and feedback was requested from employers on several proposed initiatives. These included plans to expand the business vaccination mandate to cover companies with fewer than 100 workers – including workers who may have acquired so-called “natural immunity” from a previous infection – and requiring full-vaccinated individuals to nonetheless wear masks while working.
OSHA asked employers with fewer than 100 employees what issues they may possibly encounter setting up inoculation or testing programs if the vaccination mandate was adjusted to include them.
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“The agency is moving in a stepwise fashion on the short timeline necessitated by the danger presented by COVID-19 while soliciting stakeholder comment and additional information to determine whether to adjust the scope of the ETS to address smaller employers in the future,” the ETS document says. “OSHA seeks information about the ability of employers with fewer than 100 employees to implement COVID-19 vaccination and/or testing programs. Have you instituted vaccination mandates (with or without alternatives), or requirements for regular COVID-19 testing or face covering use? What have been the benefits of your approach? What challenges have you had or could you foresee in implementing such programs?”
The document also stated that employees would be required to wear face coverings while at work, and even people who may have natural immunity to COVID-19 after having recovered from a previous case would be mandated to get the jab.
“How should the scope of the rule change to address the significant risk posed by COVID-19 in the workplace? Should portions of the rule, such as face coverings, apply to fully vaccinated persons?” the document asks. “OSHA determined that workers who have been infected with COVID-19 but have not been fully vaccinated still face a grave danger from workplace exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Given scientific uncertainty and limitations in testing for infection and immunity, OSHA is concerned that it would be infeasible for employers to operationalize a standard that would permit or require an exception from vaccination or testing and face covering based on prior infection with COVID-19.”
People may submit comments about these proposed rule changes by visiting the regulations.gov website. The comment period is open until December 6. As of publication nearly 60,000 comments have been received