Republican House lawmakers with oversight of OSHA are calling for the agency to suspend its work writing an emergency temporary standard that would require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly testing for 80 million workers. Per their letter to Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, “This scheme not only passes the buck to workers and job creators, but it also creates massive uncertainty, costs, and liabilities for many employers.”
Last month, President Biden called on OSHA to issue an emergency temporary standard that would require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that their workforce be vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly for the virus. OSHA has not released details on the standard’s likely provisions, such as who would pay for testing, whether employees working from home would be counted, and how worksites with multiple small employers would be counted.
The letter outlines Republican concerns that the Biden administration is depending on an emergency process to circumvent the usual notice-and-comment procedures for OSHA rulemakings. An emergency temporary standard can be enacted in a matter of months while usual permanent OSHA rules can take years to complete.
Additionally, the Coalition for Workplace Safety, which is led by groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Retail Federation, and National Association of Manufacturers, wrote to OSHA recently requesting that the agency reconsider what they described as their “decision” to exclude outside groups from the process.
While the maximum fine for a serious OSHA violation is now $13,653, the reconciliation budget bill still being debated could raise the maximum fine to $70,000. Violators designated as willful or repeat could face fines as high as $700,000 instead of $136,532. --FCA