December 9, 2021

Agencies Allow More Time for Comments on COVID-19, Heat, and Mental Health

Stakeholders and the public now have more time to submit comments on OSHA’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard (ETS), OSHA’s rulemaking to protect workers from heat hazards, and NIOSH’s request for information about interventions to prevent work-related stress and promote mental health and well-being among U.S. health workers. All three comment periods are now set to close in January.

OSHA’s ETS, which was published on Nov. 5, requires employers with 100 or more employees to develop, implement, and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy. Employees who choose to remain unvaccinated must undergo regular testing for COVID-19 and wear a face covering at work. Days after publication of the ETS, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked it pending further judicial review. Currently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has jurisdiction over ETS challenges, and the Department of Labor has filed a motion to lift the stay. According to OSHA’s website, the agency has “suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.” The comment period for the ETS, which is separate from the litigation, is now open until Jan. 19, 2022.

A 30-day extension of the comment period for OSHA’s rulemaking to protect indoor and outdoor workers from heat hazards allows stakeholders until Jan. 26, 2022, to weigh in on the agency’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), which was published in late October. The ANPRM launched OSHA’s rulemaking process for a standard to protect workers from heat hazards and initiated a comment period for the agency to gather information on issues to consider in developing the standard. OSHA seeks stakeholder feedback and technical expertise on topics such as heat stress thresholds, heat acclimatization planning, exposure monitoring, and strategies to protect workers from heat hazards. Comments related to the scope of the standard and the types of controls it might require will also be considered.

NIOSH has also announced an extension to its comment period on interventions to support health workers' mental health. The agency’s request for information is part of nationwide efforts to raise awareness of mental health concerns and identify best practices to prevent and reduce work stress and related adverse health outcomes among health workers. Interested individuals and organizations now have until Jan. 25, 2022, to provide comments related to best practices, promising practices, and successful programs for delivering mental health services to this worker population. The recording of a recent NIOSH webinar on protecting the mental health of health workers provides additional information on this topic.

AIHA has submitted comments on OSHA’s ETS (PDF) and in response to NIOSH’s request for information (PDF). The association is currently drafting comments on OSHA’s ANPRM on heat injury and illness prevention in outdoor and indoor work settings. More information on AIHA’s efforts in government relations can be found in a SynergistNOW blog post published today by the association’s director of government relations, Mark Ames.