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On April 26, OSHA announced it sent a draft emergency temporary COVID-19 standard to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review. This was in response to the Biden administration ordering OSHA to develop a draft standard by March 15

Three weeks after the agency sent the draft standard to the OMB, the CDC issued revised guidance for vaccinated individuals regarding masking and social distancing. The change in CDC guidance likely rendered much of the draft standard obsolete as OSHA likely required social distancing and masking for all employees irrespective of their vaccination status. As of this writing, the draft standard has been waiting for OMB approval for more than five weeks with no estimate of when the review will be complete. 

Even after approval, a draft standard must be published for public comment before being issued as a final rule. Thus, the soonest a final OSHA standard for COVID-19 might be issued will likely be early in 2022. Further complicating the publication of a COVID-19 OSHA standard is the changing guidance issued by the CDC. OSHA standards and guidance that conflict with the most recent CDC guidance confuse the nation’s employers. 

On June 2, the Biden administration announced plans to revive an infectious disease standard originally explored under the Obama administration. A broader infectious disease standard would more effectively cover future pandemics and infectious disease outbreaks as they are discovered. By the time a final COVID-19 standard is issued in 2022, COVID-19 may be well controlled and of little concern to the public and employers. However, organized labor officials have already indicated a COVID-19 specific standard is still needed to protect the nation’s workforce. 

This confusion makes it difficult for employers to anticipate and plan for what they may have to do in the future. Therefore, we advise our clients to follow the advice provided by the CDC until OSHA formally issues a COVID-19 and/or an infectious disease standard. It is unlikely either of those standards will be issued before early 2022, so we strongly recommend all employers frequently and carefully monitor the CDC guidelines. We will continue to monitor and advise our clients on the progress, if any, of the two proposed standards. 

Horton’s safety consulting team has been assisting employers in developing and implementing effective COVID-19 exposure control safety programs and protocols. Please reach out if you have questions or would like assistance creating or revising your program.

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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