OSHA to Require Employers With 100+ Employees to Ensure Workers Are Vaccinated or Tested Weekly

On September 9, 2021, the Biden administration announced a new plan to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in the United States. A critical component of that plan calls on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to develop and implement a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) to require employers with more than 100 employees to require that their employees are either fully vaccinated or subject to COVID-19 testing at least once per week.

OSHA Issues New COVID-19 Guidance for All Industries Not Covered by Its ETS for Healthcare

On June 10, 2021, simultaneous with the issuance of its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 focusing on healthcare employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its new COVID-19 guidance for all industries not covered by the ETS.

OSHA Finally Issues Its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, Confines It to Healthcare

On the morning of June 9, 2021, the White House Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) announced it completed its review of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19. At a hearing later that day before the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh told legislators that OSHA expected to release the ETS by June 10, 2021, and that it would be confined to the healthcare industry. All other industries would receive updated “strong guidance” on safely protecting unvaccinated workers.

OSHA Revokes Guidance on Recordability of COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions

On May 21, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revoked recent enforcement guidance issued to clarify the recordability of situations where employees suffered adverse side effects from a COVID-19 vaccination. The original guidance, in a nutshell, states that if an employer requires its employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment, the adverse reaction is recordable, if it meets the definition of a “new case” under 29 C.F.R. 1904.6 and otherwise meets the general recording criteria set out in 29 C.F.R. 1904.7.

Virginia Issues Permanent COVID-19 Standard

In July 2020, the Safety and Health Codes Board of the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry approved an emergency temporary standard for COVID-19. In so doing, Virginia became the first state to issue such a temporary standard. On January 13, 2021, the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board enacted a permanent standard for COVID-19. The “Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that Causes COVID-19” will be enforced by the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health program (VOSH) and is anticipated to take effect on January 27, 2021.

President Biden Issues Executive Order Promising Fast Movement by OSHA on COVID-19—Can It Deliver?

On January 21, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued an executive order requiring the federal government to take “swift action” to protect U.S. workplaces from the COVID-19 pandemic. He ordered the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to, among other things, consider, within the next two weeks, whether an emergency COVID-19 standard is necessary and, if so, to implement such a standard by no later than March 15, 2021.

Oregon OSHA Finalizes Temporary COVID-19 Rule for All Workplaces

On November 6, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Oregon OSHA), the state plan responsible for overseeing workplace safety and health in the state of Oregon, released its final COVID-19 temporary rule. The temporary rule is effective November 16, 2020, through May 4, 2021, unless revised or repealed before that date.

Oregon OSHA Releases Draft COVID-19 Temporary Standard

On August 17, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Oregon OSHA), the state plan responsible for overseeing workplace safety and health in the state of Oregon, released a draft COVID-19 temporary standard. Following Virginia’s lead, Oregon will become the second state in the nation to adopt a specific standard intended to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure.

Can Employees Refuse to Return to Work Because of COVID-19?

Parts of the country have begun the process of returning to work, in places where COVID-19 infection rates have flattened or shown a decline. But the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 remains, and some employers may be faced with parts of their workforces refusing to return to work or to perform certain assignments, citing the health risk. What are employers’ options with respect to such employees? There are both legal and practical considerations.

OSHA Revises Its Recordkeeping Guidance for COVID-19 Work-Related Cases

On May 19, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued Revised Enforcement Guidance for Recording Cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, providing additional information on what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. Previous guidance, which OSHA issued on April 10, 2020, eliminated most employers’ (all industries except healthcare, emergency response organizations, and correctional institutions) obligation to analyze whether a COVID-19 case is work-related if certain conditions are met.

OSHA Issues Enforcement Guidance on Decontamination of N95 Respirators in Healthcare

On April 24, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum titled “Enforcement Guidance on Decontamination of Filtering Facepiece Respirators in Healthcare During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.” The guidance submits a list of approved and nonapproved decontamination methods for cleaning filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), which are better known as N95 “dust mask” respirators.

State COVID-19 Orders Regulating Worker Safety—Are They Preempted?

Almost every state has issued closure orders designating certain businesses as “essential” and allowing them to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states have recently issued orders expressly or implicitly regulating the safety and health of workers at those essential businesses. Are some or all of the provisions in these orders preempted by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act)? It depends.

OSHA’s New COVID-19 Inspection Plan: What Employers Should Expect

On April 13, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Interim Enforcement Response Plan for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), which provides a blueprint for the agency’s Area Directors and inspectors to follow when considering opening and conducting a COVID-19-related inspection. The plan gives employers a glimpse into what to expect from OSHA during the pandemic.

OSHA Issues Interim Enforcement Guidance on the Meaning of “Work Related” for Recording Cases of COVID-19

On April 10, 2020, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim enforcement guidance for recording cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) under the agency’s recordkeeping regulation at 29 C.F.R. § 1904, affecting what employers are required to record in their OSHA 300 logs. The guidance clarifies which cases of COVID-19 are considered “work-related” under 29 C.F.R. § 1904, which means it also affects employer obligations for cases that must be reported to OSHA (e.g., in-patient hospitalizations).

OSHA Relaxes Enforcement to Permit Use of N95s Certified in Certain Countries

After relaxing enforcement on the use of expired N95 respirators and on their extended use and reuse, late on April 3, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Enforcement Guidance for Use of Respiratory Protection Equipment Certified under Standards of Other Countries or Jurisdictions During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic. The new guidance supplements, but does not replace, previous guidance.

OSHA Issues New Enforcement Guidance to Address the N95 Shortage During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Following up on its recent temporary enforcement guidance permitting suspension of N95 annual fit-testing for healthcare employers, on April 3, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an interim Enforcement Guidance for Respiratory Protection and the N95 Shortage Due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.

Implementing COVID-19 Temperature Checks in Light of the CDC’s and OSHA’s Silence: What Employers Need to Know

Now that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) acknowledges that employers may implement temperature screening measures in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, many employers want to conduct them, and want to know how to conduct them. In some locations, employers may even feel compelled to conduct them based on location-specific or general community mitigation guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

COVID-19: FAQs on Federal Labor and Employment Laws

The recent spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States has caused employers to be increasingly concerned and uncertain regarding the future of their workforces. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the latest developments on the virus and guidance from federal agencies.

OSHA Allows Healthcare Employers to Suspend N95 Annual Fit-Testing During Coronavirus “Outbreak”

On March 14, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued temporary enforcement guidance addressing the fit-testing requirements in the agency’s respiratory protection standard (29 C.F.R. § 1910.134). The guidance applies to healthcare workers using N95 respirators to protect them from the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

OSHA Issues New Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

On the evening of March 9, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new guidance, “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.” The guidance divides employers into four risk categories and provides recommendations on engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment to protect employees from coronavirus.

OSHA’s Enforcement of the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry, 2018–2019: By the Numbers

For employers concerned about how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been enforcing its Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry, the agency’s enforcement data for the standard’s first 18 months provides some insight. From July 2018 to December 31, 2019, OSHA and state plan states issued 720 violations based on 29 C.F.R. Section 1926.1053, for a collective penalty total of over $1.5 million.