President Joe Biden on Thursday, December 2 asked businesses to voluntarily move forward with the administration’s Covid-19 vaccine and testing requirements, even as the rules are challenged in court, after U.S. officials confirmed the first case of the omicron variant in the U.S.
The administration’s request comes after public health officials in California detected the first case in the U.S. of the Covid omicron variant. U.S. and international health officials are concerned that omicron, which has roughly 50 mutations, could prove more transmissible than past strains of the virus and may evade vaccine protection to some degree.
The Biden administration gave businesses with 100 or more employees until Jan. 4 to ensure their staff are either vaccinated against Covid, or submit a negative test weekly before entering the workplace. Unvaccinated employees were supposed to start wearing masks indoors at the workplace on Dec. 5.
However, OSHA suspended enforcement and implementation of the requirements last month, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit halted the policy pending review. Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, in an opinion for a three-judge panel, said the requirements were “fatally flawed” and raise “serious constitutional concerns”
The administration has also asked the court to adopt an expedited schedule in which oral arguments would take place as soon as possible after final briefs are filed on Dec. 29. The Justice Department told the court that a “swift resolution” is warranted because “the lives and health of thousands of American workers are at stake.”
OSHA extends comments period for both ETS and heat stress rulemaking
OSHA extended the comment period for the COVID-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard to Jan. 19, 2022. OSHA extended the comment period by 45 days to allow stakeholders additional time to review the ETS and collect information and data necessary for comment.
Submit comments identified by Docket No. OSHA-2021-0007 electronically at https://www.regulations.gov, which is the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. Follow the online instructions for making electronic submissions. The Federal e-Rulemaking Portal is the only way to submit comments on this rule. Read the Nov. 5, 2021 Federal Register notice for details.
More information about the ETS is available on OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS webpage.
OSHA is also extending the period for submitting comments on the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings. Comments on the ANPRM must now be submitted by Jan. 26, 2022.
Currently, OSHA does not have a heat-specific standard to protect millions of workers in indoor and outdoor work settings from exposure to hazardous heat conditions. In recent months, OSHA has initiated several efforts to protect workers from heat-related illnesses and deaths while working in hazardously hot indoor and outdoor environments. In addition to pursuing a heat-specific workplace rule, OSHA instituted a heat-related enforcement initiative and plans to issue a National Emphasis Program for heat-related safety efforts in 2022.
The agency began the process of considering a heat-specific workplace rule to address heat-related illnesses when it published the ANPRM on Oct. 27, 2021.
Submit comments, identified by Docket No. OSHA-2021-0009, electronically at www.regulations.gov, which is the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal. The Federal e-Rulemaking Portal is the only way to submit comments on this ANPRM.