November 2, 2021 / Kay Bechtold

The Monthly Weekly: OSHA's COVID-19 Vaccine, Testing Rule Expected to Be Published Soon

Editor’s note: The Monthly Weekly is an occasional feature that reviews the previous month’s news coverage from The Synergist Weekly newsletter.

Like employers and other stakeholders, the Synergist team is on the lookout for the publication of OSHA’s new emergency temporary standard (ETS) to require COVID-19 vaccination or testing for workers of larger employers. Yesterday, news outlets including Reuters, The Hill, and The New York Times reported that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has completed its regulatory review of the ETS and that the standard is expected to be published “in the coming days,” according to a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Labor. President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan, released in September, directs OSHA to issue an ETS that would require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workers are vaccinated against the disease or submit to weekly testing.

The ETS was reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), the statutory part of OMB that conducts regulatory reviews. Once the OIRA review process is complete and the rule finalized, it will be published in the Federal Register. According to the OSHA website, once the agency publishes the ETS in the Federal Register, it serves as a proposed permanent standard subject to the usual rulemaking process except that a final ruling should be made within six months. The validity of an emergency temporary standard may be challenged in an appropriate U.S. Court of Appeals.

While we wait for OSHA’s new ETS to be published, here are some highlights related to other recent developments at the agency.

Protecting workers from heat hazards. An advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) published on Oct. 27 by OSHA launches the agency’s rulemaking process for a standard to protect workers from heat hazards. The ANPRM on heat injury and illness prevention, which covers both outdoor and indoor work settings, initiates a comment period for OSHA to gather information on issues to consider in developing the standard. Comments are due by Dec. 27.

New head of OSHA. The U.S. Senate has confirmed Doug Parker, who most recently served as chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, as the new assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. The agency had been without a permanent administrator since David Michaels resigned in 2017.

Federal advisory council on OHS. The U.S. Department of Labor seeks nominations for candidates to be considered for appointment to the newly reestablished Federal Advisory Council on Occupational Safety and Health. FACOSH is intended to advise the Labor secretary on how to reduce the number of injuries and illnesses in the federal workforce. Nominations for membership on FACOSH are due by Nov. 22.

New regional initiative. A new Regional Emphasis Program established by OSHA is intended to help reduce worker exposure to health hazards in industries where previous inspections have indicated that employees were exposed to hazardous substances such as asbestos, formaldehyde, and cadmium. Additional substances associated with long latency periods from exposure to the appearance of symptoms—benzene, beryllium, and ethylene oxide, among others—are also included in OSHA’s documentation for the program.

Robot system safety. Updated information on robot system safety in workplaces is now published in the OSHA Technical Manual. The updated information can be found in chapter four in the section on industrial robot systems and industrial robot system safety, which is intended as a guide to robot systems found in industrial applications.

AIHA members can always find the latest industry news from The Synergist on AIHA’s website and in The Synergist Weekly e-newsletter, which is delivered every Thursday. We look forward to keeping readers up to date on OSHA’s forthcoming COVID-19 ETS and other issues of importance to industrial hygienists and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals.

Have feedback on our news coverage? Please share your comments here or send an email to The Synergist.

Kay Bechtold

Kay Bechtold is the managing editor of The Synergist.


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