As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to come under control, many businesses have started to put plans into action for employees to return to work. From OSHA guidance to federal mandates, the process of going back to work is starting to look a little different these days.
US Federal Plan for Returning to In-Person Work
On September 9th, the Biden Administration announced a six-part Path Out of the Pandemic plan to bring the pandemic to a close. The plan contains vaccine mandates that apply to federal workers and contractors, private businesses with 100 or more employees, and those that work in healthcare settings. This plan has faced both criticism and praise along the political spectrum but remains an integral piece of the Biden Administration plan to reduce instances of COVID-19 in the US.
Following these changes, employers are starting to bring employees back to work in-person as vaccine mandates continue to rollout. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released their Guidance on Returning to Work document earlier this year with recommendations on bringing employees back to work safely with reduced exposure risks. The guidance released by OSHA is not a federal standard or regulation that is enforceable, but rather is provided to be used in maintaining a safe and healthful workplace.
Who Does the Vaccine Mandate Apply to?
With the new vaccine mandate rolling out, businesses are left to figure out how it applies to them. Some states have chosen to fight the vaccine mandate in the courts, demanding it remain a voluntary choice for workers, while other states have been more supportive. States have the jurisdiction to implement their own mandates, or lack thereof. This guide is a helpful tool in seeing which groups of workers mandates currently apply to, along with any mandates currently in place for individual states.
At the current time, only those that are federal executive branch employees and federal contractors are required to be vaccinated under the Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors. On November 5th, OSHA released their Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for vaccination and testing requirements. This ETS effects private employers with 100 or more employees and requires a vaccination policy for workers. You can find detailed information on the facts and summary of the entire ETS here.
The Path Forward for Businesses
As people start to return to work, it’s important for companies to stay up to date on safety information related to COVID and other issues on the federal and state level. COVID may have slowed economic activity in certain sectors, but federal and state agencies continue to do their work when it comes to environment, health, and safety regulations. Looking at our RegTracker data so far in 2021, there have been over 350 final rule changes along with over 900 notices at the federal level. States have seen a similar volume of activity: over 400 final rules in addition to more than 70 emergency rules so far this year. Want to be kept up to date on the latest EHS regulatory changes in the jurisdictions your business operates in? Check out RegScan EHS Alerts to stay up to date.