Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) telling private companies with 100 or more workers that their employees had to be vaccinated against COVID-19,or tested on a weekly basis for the disease.
The Supreme Court blocked that ruling. They allowed a similar rule for healthcare workers to stand, but manufacturers were no longer required to follow that ETS. OSHA’s place, the court said, is “to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures.” Just because the danger exists in workplaces, they explained, doesn’t make it a workplace hazard.
OSHA’s not done. They are working on a permanent vaccine mandate.
Current guidance on COVID-19 requires these things:
- Facilitate (but not necessarily require) employees getting vaccinated.
- Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work.
- Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers.
- Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks as appropriate.
- Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures.
- Suggest or require that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings.
- Maintain ventilation systems.
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- Implement protection from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns.
- Follow other applicable mandatory OSHA standards including those governing PPE, respiratory protection, sanitation, employee access to medical and exposure records.
These requirements apply to all employers, not just those with 100 or more workers.
Children have to be vaccinated in order to attend school. Vaccines are required for travel. Vaccine mandates are part of business as usual.
Johns Hopkins compares the OSHA requirement with seat belt mandates and laws against smoking in restaurants. “When someone chooses not to be vaccinated out of, for example, freedom to make that choice, it impacts the freedoms for everyone else,” their expert said. “We’re seeing right now that a lot of places that had opened up and eliminated mask mandates are now going back to mask mandates. So the choices that people make to not be vaccinated—while genuinely they may really feel like it’s a personal choice—end up impacting the freedoms of others.”
Employers are still allowed to set vaccine mandates for their employees, but OSHA hopes to require these actions.