OSHA Withdraws Temporary COVID-19 Vaccine-or-Testing Rule

  • Agency leaves door open to future permanent standard on COVID vaccination-or-testing

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is withdrawing its emergency temporary standard (ETS) to require all large businesses in the United States to implement a COVID-19 vaccine-or-weekly-testing policy for employees by February 9, 2022.

However, OSHA has decided to propose that the make the temporary standard in to a permanent standard.

“Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the [ETS], OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace,” the agency said.

OSHA originally published the ETS on November 5, 2021 in the Federal Register and accepted comments through January 19, 2022. However, on January 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court struck down the ETS, while upholding the narrower Centers for Medicare & Medicaid vaccination rule for health care workers. (See January 13 NAHC Report.)

“Although OSHA is withdrawing the Vaccination and Testing ETS as an enforceable emergency temporary standard,” wrote the agency, “OSHA is not withdrawing the ETS to the extent that it serves as a proposed rule.”

OSHA’s announcement did not indicate when it will finalize a permanent rule, but Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Politico on Monday that the “Supreme Court opened up a couple of potential different areas which we’ll explore. They talked about assembly line, medical — there’s like three or four general areas that you could read into. We could do something there.”

Previously, OSHA has indicated a number of possibilities for a final rule, such as whether to cover employers with fewer than 100 employees, whether masking should also be required, whether the standard should be strictly vaccination, and others.

“We need clarity on this issue and NAHC strongly encourages both Congress and the Administration to quickly reach a conclusion so that affected health care businesses can focus on providing care,” said NAHC President William A. Dombi. “Infection control in patient care and staffing is an essential responsibility in all of health care. Home care is committed to protecting its patients and its staff from Covid-19.“