COVID-19, Personnel Safety

Biden Orders Emergency OSHA Vaccination Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will soon issue an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or provide weekly negative tests. The rule will be issued as part of President Joe Biden’s six-point national strategy, announced September 9, to combat the ongoing pandemic.

The six-point strategy includes:

  • Vaccinating the unvaccinated, which includes the new OSHA ETS, Executive Orders (EO) requiring vaccinations for federal employees and contractors, and a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requirement for COVID-19 vaccinations for workers in healthcare settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement;
  • Further protecting the vaccinated by providing booster shots of approved vaccines;
  • Keeping schools safely open, requiring vaccination of teachers and staff in Head Start programs, Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools;
  • Increasing testing and requiring masking, doubling Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fines for passengers who refuse to wear face coverings;
  • Protecting the economic recovery through a small business loan program; and
  • Improving care for those with COVID-19 through additional shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments and deploying additional federal COVID-19 Surge Response Teams.

Biden issued an Order for mandatory vaccination of all federal employees. Under the EO, the White House’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force will issue guidance for federal agencies within 7 days. The EO does not offer regular negative COVID-19 test results as an alternative to vaccination, allowing only exceptions required by law.

By September 24, 2021, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force also must issue agency guidance for contractor COVID-19 vaccination. If the task force guidance is approved by the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, federal agencies and executive departments must include the COVID-19 safety requirements in federal contracts.

FMCSA emergency declaration extended

As part of the ongoing federal COVID-19 response, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) extended its pandemic Emergency Declaration (No. 2020-002) through November 30, providing regulatory relief from hours-of-service requirements for commercial motor vehicle operators transporting supplies, equipment, and persons for emergency relief. The emergency declaration has been extended and modified June 15, 2020; August 15, 2020; December 1, 2020; and May 26, 2021.

The emergency declaration only provides relief for motor carriers and drivers providing direct assistance in support of relief efforts related to the COVID-19 public health emergency and is limited to transportation of the following:

  • Livestock and livestock feed;
  • Medical supplies and equipment related to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19;
  • Vaccines and vaccine ingredients and medical supplies and equipment, including ancillary supplies/kits for administrating vaccines, related to COVID-19 prevention;
  • Supplies and equipment necessary for community safety, sanitation, and prevention of community transmission of COVID-19, such as masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, soap, and disinfectants;
  • Food, paper products, and other groceries for emergency restocking of distribution centers or stores;
  • Gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and ethyl alcohol; and
  • Supplies to assist individuals impacted by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as building materials for individuals displaced or otherwise impacted by the pandemic.

The exemptions do not cover regular commercial deliveries or the transportation of mixed loads. When a driver transitions from emergency relief efforts to normal operations, a 10-hour break is required when the total time a driver operates conducting emergency relief efforts, or a combination of emergency relief and normal operations, equals 14 hours.