On September 9th, President Biden revealed a new COVID-19 Action Plan with one of several key goals to “Vaccinate the Unvaccinated.” The most notable aspect of that plan is a directive to federal OSHA to develop a 2nd COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard requiring all but small employers in all industries to implement “soft” vaccine mandates; i.e., require employees to either be fully vaccinated or get weekly testing. The President also directed OSHA to include in this new ETS a requirement that employers provide paid time for employees to get vaccinated and recover from ill effects of the vaccine. Separately, the President issued Executive Orders setting “hard” vaccine mandates for federal contractors and healthcare workers.
The President’s announcement was lean on details, and prompted as many questions as it answered. The attorneys from CMC’s OSHA and Employment Law practices discussed our take on the burning questions raised by this latest development on the COVID-19 front: Continue reading →
We hate that we have to do this again, but alas, as we reported late last week, on Thursday, September 9th, President Biden announced that he is directing OSHA to issue a new Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that would require many employers to provide paid time for employees to get and recover from getting vaccinated and to implement “soft” vaccine mandates; i.e., require employees either to be fully vaccinated or get weekly COVID-19 testing, as well as issuing new Executive Orders requiring federal contractors to implement “hard” vaccine mandates.
While we anticipated OSHA would reconsider the need for a broader COVID-19 ETS applicable beyond just the healthcare sector in light of the impact of the Delta variant, President Biden’s decision to use a new ETS focused on vaccinations and testing as a central element of his newly unveiled Path Out of the Pandemic – COVID-19 Action Plan raises a host of challenges for employers across the country. We understand from our contacts at OSHA that the agency will move much more quickly to prepare and send this ETS to the White House, so it is imperative that the employer community come together now to identify shared concerns and considerations and begin advocating to OSHA and OMB so that this new ETS is one with which industry can reasonably manage.
To that end, Conn Maciel Carey LLP is organizing a fee-based company-anonymous coalition of employers and trade groups to advocate for the most reasonable fed OSHA COVID-19 emergency rule focused on vaccination and testing possible.Continue reading →
We know that many of our friends in the healthcare industry are knee-deep analyzing Fed OSHA’s new COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) and making adjustments to COVID-19 protocols and programs to quickly come into compliance with this onerous new regulation. Conn Maciel Carey LLP’s COVID-19 Taskforce has carefully reviewed all 1,000+ pages of the ETS, its Preamble, and the rest of the supporting documentation, and has participated in several discussions with senior leadership at OSHA about thorny provisions of the rule, so we have a good understanding of what is required. To help you understand precisely what is required of your covered facilities, and to assist with compliance implementation, we have prepared summaries of all the major requirements of the ETS below.
Hazard Assessments and COVID-19 Plans
One of the first steps employers must take is to conduct a hazard assessment of your operations to determine those areas where risk of virus transmission exists, and to then develop a response plan for dealing with those risks. The hazard assessment findings and your plans for transmission mitigation must be incorporated into a written COVID-19 Plan. Here is a summary of the ETS requirements for conducting the hazard assessment and preparing a written plan.
29 C.F.R. Section 1910.502(c) requires all employers covered by the ETS to develop and implement a COVID-19 Plan for each workplace. If the employer has more than 10 employees, the Plan must be written. This summary describes the requirements associated with the COVID-19 Plan.
Before developing the Plan, employers must conduct a workplace specific hazard assessment for the purpose of identifying and understanding where potential COVID-19 hazards exist and what controls must be implemented to reduce those hazards. Employers must inspect the entire workplace and the hazard assessment should: Continue reading →
Today’s topic on the Fed OSHA COVID-19 ETS is ventilation.
29 C.F.R. Section 1910.502(k) establishes ventilation requirements for covered facilities. This summary describes the standard’s requirements for ventilation.
The ventilation provisions of the ETS do not require employers to purchase new HVAC systems or to reconfigure existing duct work to comply with the standard. Rather, employers are required simply to increase indoor ventilation to the maximum extent possible on existing systems. New filtration equipment may be required, however, depending on the existing air filters in an HVAC system.
OSHA ventilation requirements are based on the concern that, without adequate ventilation, continued exhalation can cause the amount of infectious smaller droplets and particles produced by people with COVID-19 to become concentrated enough in the air to spread the virus to other people. OSHA explained in the preamble that the more outdoor air the HVAC system is capable of drawing into the building, the greater the impact may be on limiting the potential for the virus to accumulate.
Accordingly, the ETS establishes five main requirements that employers who own or control buildings or structures with an existing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system(s) must follow to comply with the ETS: Continue reading →
We are barreling towards major changes to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 requirements for California employers expected to take effect on Thursday or Friday of this week.
After the back and forth with the last revised ETS that was voted down, then approved minutes later, the clawed back a few days later to make way for another revised ETS, late last week, Cal/OSHA released the new revised text for its COVID-19 ETS.
The text of what appears now to become the official updated version of Cal/OSHA COVID-19 ETS is available here, and a redline comparison with the presently effective text is here. Additionally, DOSH has just issued these FAQs clarifying the intent of the proposed revised COVID-19 ETS.
Below is our summary of the major substantive changes coming to the ETS, as compared to the prior proposed revisions (subsequently withdrawn), as well as highlighted guidance that interprets or expands on these anticipated new regulatory requirements.
Substantive Revisions to the ETS Text
As expected, these latest changes were limited given the short window for issuing revisions following the Standards Board’s special meeting earlier this week. We understood Continue reading →
Nearly 16 months after the pandemic began, federal OSHA revealed its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (the ETS) that imposes a series of requirements on healthcare employers. While OSHA’s issuance of an ETS comes as no surprise to many who have been tracking the agency since Pres. Biden’s inauguration, the fact that it applies only to the healthcare sector and not to all industries is not what we expected. Looking back, the promulgation of an ETS applicable to all workplaces seemed a foregone conclusion when President Biden took office in January and issued an Executive Order that same day directing OSHA to update its COVID-19 guidance, adopt a COVID-19 National Emphasis Program, evaluate whether an ETS was necessary and, if so, issue the ETS on or before March 15, 2021.
On April 27, 2021, OSHA delivered to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) an ETS, which, by all accounts, was a broad rule applicable to all industries, but because this was an emergency rulemaking, the proposed regulatory text was not available to the public. In the weeks that followed, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), within OMB, hosted a series of meetings to hear from stakeholders regarding a proposed rule they had not seen. On behalf of the Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition, Conn Maciel Carey organized and led two OIRA meetings at which we and our coalition members provided input and recommendations to OSHA and OMB. As the meetings continued, the success of the vaccine rollout became clearer, with a corresponding drop in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and then came the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) game-changing guidance on May 13, 2021 relaxing protocols for vaccinated individuals. All of this caused many to question whether an OSHA ETS was still necessary. With conditions on the ground improving rapidly, we continued to help stakeholder schedule and participate in OIRA meetings to argue that a general industry ETS was no longer needed.
On June 10, 2011, after more than 50 OIRA meetings, a final ETS applicable only to the healthcare industry was sent to the Office of the Federal Register for publication. The standard appears at 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.502, and will appear in the Federal Register within a couple of weeks.
Explaining the purpose of the ETS for Healthcare, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh offered this statement: Continue reading →
We are sure many of you have been on the edge of your seat waiting for news about OSHA’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard, which was expected to be issued by next Monday, March 15th per Pres. Biden’s Day-1 OSHA Executive Order (EO). So that you might be able to enjoy your weekend, we wanted to share with you the latest we are hearing about the status of the emergency rulemaking.
Status of Rulemaking
As we expected, the process OSHA is following (an emergency rulemaking with some time pressure set by Pres. Biden) does not include an opportunity for a formal pre-rule public notice-and-comment period. Nevertheless, the rule still needs to go to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval before it is issued and can go into effect. That likely means that the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) within OMB will provide for stakeholder input in some form pursuant to Executive Order 12866. As of now, OMB’s website still does not reflect a docket entry for OSHA’s COVID-19 ETS, and we have not otherwise heard or seen anything that would indicate the proposed rule has been delivered to OMB. To monitor that, here is a link to OMB’s page about regulations under EO 12866 review — scroll down to the Department of Labor section of rules.
We also have started to hear through the rumor-mill that OSHA understand the Executive Order to require Continue reading →
In his first day in office, President Biden issued an Executive Order (“EO”) that directed Fed OSHA to revisit its strategy for regulating and enforcing workplace spread of COVID-19. Among other actions, the EO directed OSHA to consider whether a federal COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (“ETS”) is necessary. We believe it is a foregone conclusion OSHA will issue an ETS. The lack of an explicit mandate to do so is likely more a formality than a real open question; i.e., the President prefers the appearance that the workplace safety experts at OSHA made the decision, but the White House has made clear what it expects.
Assuming OSHA determines an ETS is needed, the EO sets a March 15th deadline for OSHA to finalize and issue the rule, so OSHA is surely already working intensely on a COVID-19 ETS. Although OSHA has not yet confirmed its intent to develop an ETS, we believe it prudent to begin our advocacy efforts as soon as possible, as there will likely be a small pre-rule window to impact the rule before it issues.
The question remains, though, what will a Fed OSHA COVID-19 ETS look like? We need look no further than the examples set by the State OSH Plans that already have issued COVID-19 ETSs to see the difference between a manageable, effective rule (seeVirginia OSHA’s ETS) and a daunting, sometimes unworkable rule (seeCal/OSHA’s ETS). Continue reading →
On November 30, 2020, Cal/OSHA issued its final COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”), with all of its provisions effective immediately. One of those provisions — the exclusion pay and benefits continuation requirements — has been at the center of much controversy.
Typical among these COVID-19 emergency rules, the Cal/OSHA regulations requires employers to exclude from the workplace “COVID-19 cases” as well as employees who experience a “close contact” exposure (i.e., contact within 6′ of a confirmed case for a cumulative 15 minutes). But the Cal/OSHA ETS gets controversial at Sec. 3205(c)(10)(C), where it requires employers to continue and maintain those employees’ earnings, seniority, and all other employment rights and benefits, as if the employee had not been removed from the job. Where permitted by law and when not covered by workers’ compensation, employers may use employer-provided employee sick leave benefits, and may consider benefit payments from public sources, in determining how to maintain earnings, rights and benefits.
There are several important exceptions to these exclusion pay and benefits continuation requirements. For example, the ETS provides that the provision does not kick in for any period of time when the employee is not able to work for reasons other than protecting persons at the workplace from possible COVID-19 transmission. Likewise, the pay and benefits continuation provision does not apply where the employer can demonstrate the employee’s COVID-19 exposure is not work-related. Finally, although not characterized as an “exception” specific to the exclusion pay and benefits provision, the ETS does also carve-out employees who can be temporarily reassigned to work where they do not have contact with other persons until applicable return-to-work requirements are met.
To provide some clarification about this pay and benefits continuation provision (as well as most other elements of the ETS), Cal/OSHA has issued two batches of FAQs, most recently updated January 8th. There are now 10 FAQs related to exclusion pay and benefits, most notable among them: Continue reading →
ANNOUNCING CONN MACIEL CAREY’S
2021 OSHA WEBINAR SERIES
As the Trump Administration hands over the keys to President-Elect Biden and a new Democratic Administration, OSHA’s enforcement and regulatory landscape is set to change in dramatic ways, from shifting enforcement priorities, budgets and policies, to efforts to reignite OSHA’s rulemaking apparatus. Following an Administration that never installed an Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, handled COVID-19 enforcement with a light touch, pumped the brakes on almost all rulemaking in general, and declined to issue an emergency COVID-19 standard in particular, the pendulum swing at OSHA is likely to be more pronounced than during past transitions. Accordingly, it is more important now than ever before to pay attention to OSHA developments.
Conn Maciel Carey’s complimentary 2021 OSHA Webinar Series, which includes (at least) monthly programs put on by the attorneys in the firm’s national OSHA Practice, is designed to give employers insight into developments at OSHA during this period of flux and unpredictability.
To register for an individual webinar in the series, click on the link in the program description below. To register for the entire 2021 series, click here to send us an email request, and we will register you. If you missed any of our programs from the past seven years of our annual OSHA Webinar Series, click here to subscribe to our YouTube channel to access those webinars.
Virginia made two significant changes to its COVID-19 regulatory landscape last week as it relates to quarantine measures and reporting positive cases to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
First, VDH has officially adopted CDC’s new quarantine guidance. VDH and CDC continue to recommend a quarantine period of 14 days. However, CDC guidance now includes two additional options for how long quarantine should last. The safest option is still to quarantine for 14 days after last exposure, shorter quarantine periods are acceptable for close contacts who are quarantining but who have not experienced any systems. Specifically, asymptomatic close contacts may end a quarantine after day 10 without testing, or after day 7 with a negative PCR or negative antigen test, if the test was performed on or after day 5. It is still important to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 until 14 days after exposure, and to take other prevention measures including wearing a mask, distancing, and frequent hand washing.
VDH formally adopted this revised quarantine guidance in an announcement on its website for everyone except healthcare workers or healthcare facilities. VDH recommends that Continue reading →
Earlier this Summer, Virginia became the first state in the nation to promulgate a mandatory safety regulation designed to reduce COVID-19 infections in the workplace, when Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced the commonwealth’s adoption of an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”). VOSH’s COVID-19 ETS went to effect on July 27th, with major elements of the rule kicking in in August and September.
Earlier this Summer, Virginia became the first state in the nation to promulgate a mandatory safety regulation designed to reduce COVID-19 infections in the workplace, when Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam announced the commonwealth’s adoption of an Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”). The COVID-19 ETS, which was drafted by Virginia’s Department of Labor and Industry, requires Virginia employers to:
Assess potential exposures to COVID-19 in the workplace
Categorize the level of risk of exposure from Low to Very High (each with different mitigation requirements)
Develop and implement a written infection control plan
Provide employee training on the virus and control measures in the workplace
Make certain notifications about infected employees to co-workers, to VOSH, and to the VA Dept. of Health
VOSH’s COVID-19 ETS went to effect on July 27th, with major elements of the rule kicking in in August and September. Now, several months into implementation of the COVID-19-specific regulation, we check on the status of the rule, challenges employers have faced complying with it, and enforcement issues. Participants in this webinar will learn:
Earlier this week, on Monday, November 9, 2020, Oregon OSHA released its final COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (the “OR ETS”) after several delays. Employers will have to act quickly to come into compliance, as the ETS goes into effect November 16th, with a series of major deadlines coming due in early December.
The ETS includes one set of mandates for all workplaces and another set for what it defines as “workplaces of exceptional risk” — namely those that include job duties related to direct patient care, aerosol-generating or post-mortem procedures, in-home care and/or direct client service in residential care or assisted living facilities. The OR ETS also includes an appendix with “mandatory guidance” for 19 specific industries and/or workplace activities, including:
restaurants and bars;
veterinary clinics; and
Explaining the need for an emergency rule, leadership at OR OSHA said this:
“The COVID-19 emergency has highlighted the risks that any infectious disease, particularly one that is airborne, can create for a wide variety of workplaces. As a result of both the immediate and long-term risks highlighted by the current public and occupational health crisis, Oregon OSHA is responding to the request that the state adopt an enforceable workplace health rule on an emergency basis this summer, to be replaced by a permanent rule.”
Oregon OSHA has plans to release materials on its website to support work on the risk assessment, the written exposure control plan, and the training activities required in the rule. Presently, there is a template exposure risk assessment form available. The agency also released a poster that employers must post in the workplace.