May 20, 2021

OSHA: Refer to CDC's New Guidance for Information on Protecting Fully Vaccinated Workers

Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or socially distance in any setting, except where required by laws, rules, and regulations, including workplace guidance, according to new interim public health recommendations published by CDC on May 13. The new guidance is intended to apply to non-healthcare settings. The day after the new recommendations were released, AIHA called on CDC and OSHA to clarify the meaning of the new guidance for workers and employers, and how they can implement it. AIHA’s statement highlights concerns that CDC’s latest guidance has created confusion among employers, workers, and occupational and environmental health and safety professionals. A notice on OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage states that the agency is reviewing CDC’s recent guidance and will update its materials accordingly. In the meantime, OSHA is directing employers and others to refer to the new CDC guidance for information on measures for protecting fully vaccinated workers. No timetable has been communicated regarding OSHA’s review of CDC’s guidance.

On Tuesday, AIHA joined eight other organizations in sending a letter to CDC and the U.S. Department of Labor urging agency leaders to clarify what the new CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people means for all workplaces.

“[The guidance’s] vague language, combined with public messaging from federal officials indicating that fully vaccinated people can largely abandon COVID-19 protection protocols, has caused significant confusion among employers, workers, and worker health and safety professionals,” the letter (PDF) reads. “To relieve this confusion and protect workers, businesses, and communities, we urge you to work with our organizations to clarify the CDC’s guidance for fully vaccinated people.”

The organizations that co-signed the letter include the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses, Inc., the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, the National Employment Law Project, the National Waste and Recycling Association, SafeWork Washington, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, and the United Steelworkers.

For more information, see CDC’s updated guidance, OSHA’s COVID-19 webpage, and AIHA’s letter to CDC and DOL.