OSHA Emergency Covid Testing Guidelines by Cole Freyberger – Safety Coordinator

Published: January 19, 2022

OSHA Emergency Covid Testing Guidelines

On January 13th the United States Supreme Court decided to halt OSHAs ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard) for Covid vaccination and testing. This decision does not mean that this standard is done completely, only that it has not passed in its current form. The Biden administration can decide to change it and resubmit it again or they may withdraw it completely, only time will tell. This controversial decision has created a lot of buzz in the media and many employers are concerned and confused about what this ETS and subsequent ruling mean to them.

What Was The ETS?

This ETS required employers with over 100 employees to require their employees to either be fully vaccinated or submit a negative covid test weekly. This was put in place to increase vaccination levels in an attempt to fight the covid pandemic. The standard also had other requirements such as mandatory masks for unvaccinated employees and a requirement for a written vaccination policy, again only for employers with over 100 employees.

What Does OSHA Say?

U.S. Secretary of Labor, Marty Walsh claims OSHA was within their rights given to them by Congress to enforce the ETS to protect workers and he encourages all employers to require vaccination or weekly testing. Walsh also stated “The emergency temporary standard is based on science and data that show the effectiveness of vaccines against the spread of coronavirus and the grave danger faced by unvaccinated workers. The commonsense standards established in the ETS remain critical, especially during the current surge, where unvaccinated people are 15-20 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than vaccinated people. OSHA will be evaluating all options to ensure workers are protected from this deadly virus.”

What Does This Mean Going Forward?

The Standard is in legal limbo right now meaning fines will not be issued and that businesses are not currently required to meet this standard, but this can change, and its best businesses plan for potential enforcement of this standard or a similar modified standard. In addition, this doesn’t mean businesses can’t enforce vaccine standards if they wish to, they just are not currently required to meet federal OSHA requirements. Businesses must still meet state and local standards that may have similar requirements in some localities. Hopefully, OSHA and the supreme court can reach a conclusion and set a policy quickly with clear guidelines. I feel many have been confused by this standard and its implementation and want some clarity.