On Monday, June 21 in Washington, D.C., OSHA issued its long-awaited COVID Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), well past the March 15 deadline set by President Biden. After weeks of delays and dozens of meetings throughout May and early June with stakeholders, OSHA issued a much more limited ETS than expected, not making changes to existing policy for manufacturers and general business but adding new requirements for health-care workplaces. OSHA did issue guidance for manufacturing and other non-healthcare industries on June 10 that better aligns their COVID policies with the latest CDC vaccinations in the workplace guidance released May 28, 2021.
The new OSHA guidance differentiates between fully vaccinated employees and protections still needed for those not fully vaccinated or unable to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Businesses raised concern since June 2020 that a one-size-fits-all OSHA approach setting a single set of rules for all workplaces was disruptive to operations without improving safety. While employers now have more clarity from Washington, D.C., their state and local governments may still have their own COVID regulations in place. For now, we do not expect further changes from OSHA in the coming months, absent new guidance from the CDC related to the new Delta variant. As always, employers should consult their labor counsel and HR professionals when making decisions related to the workplace.