As you already know, the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the enforcement of the OSHA vaccine mandate rules. The opinion was issued on Thursday, January 13th, in a very quick turnaround decision. The vaccine mandate for certain healthcare facilities remains in place. However, what you may not have heard is that SCOTUS discussed a possible revision that could change their decision.
The dissenters on the Court felt that mandating vaccines would be a significant expansion of OSHA’s regulatory authority. However, even though the Court ordered OSHA to stop the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), they did indicate that the vaccine mandate would be considered again if revised to regulate only those work environments proven to be more hazardous for transmission than transmission resulting from being in the general public. Examples the Court provided are researchers working with the COVID-19 virus, or employees who work in crowded or cramped environments.
This narrows the scope of the ETS (OSHA Vaccine Mandate), but many believe it still would protect vulnerable workers. It may even encompass smaller workplaces with less than 100 workers. It’s anyone’s guess if OSHA will revise the standard, but for now, the OSHA ETS Standard is no longer in effect. This means that employers who are opposed to implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate do not have to do so.
However, employers who wish to implement a vaccine mandate can still do so regardless of whether or not there is an OSHA rule and many have already successfully implemented one. Of course this is not a consideration for employers based in a state that has laws forbidding a mandate.
At a recent safety meeting OSHA shared devastating stories of proven work-related COVID exposures that resulted in severe illness and fatalities, including the workers’ families. These were exposures outside of healthcare settings.
What next? Please continue to,
- Share accurate information with your employees.
- Consut with public health, occupational health, and safety professionals.
- Communicate often – more often than you think necessary – to ensure that your employees are kept informed and updated.
- Take all precautionary steps based on how your employees work together to ensure that they are protected.
Hopefully this will be behind us soon, but won’t be until the mutations and transmissions are prevented. Right now however, hospitals are reaching capacity – many without beds for medical emergencies, healthcare workers are exhausted, nursing homes are impacted, children are infected, and schools and businesses are having to close because of COVID infected employees. It’s a vulnerable time. Consider what you need to do to take care of yourself, your employees, and each other.