An Executive Order signed by President Joe Biden on Jan. 21 requires OSHA to consider an ETS related to COVID-19. If an ETS is considered necessary, the order directs the agency to issue one by March 15.
In February, the research arm of J. J. Keller & Associates Inc. – a provider of regulatory, safety and compliance solutions – surveyed more than 600 employers to measure their “comfort and concern” regarding a potential ETS. When asked to respond to the statement, “I believe a federal COVID-19 mandate is necessary to protect workers,” 47% were “middle of the road.” One-quarter of the respondents “completely” agreed with the statement, while 28% disagreed.
Most of the respondents (80%) said they were very familiar or somewhat familiar with the potential ETS – an indication that they anticipate any new standard will be similar to current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and OSHA. A little more than half of the respondents (51%) are concerned about cost and impacts to productivity as a result of an ETS. Between 40% and 45% of the respondents cited other challenges such as:
Keeping up with changing COVID-19 guidance
Conflicts between current and future guidance
Conflicts between federal, state and local mandates
Training workers to comply with mandates
Opening up the organization to potential lawsuits based on technicalities
“A common criticism employers expressed is that they have already implemented the expected requirements, per local or state regulations,” a J. J. Keller press release states.
Nearly all of the respondents (98%) have taken steps to curb the spread of COVID-19, such as requiring the use of facemasks, adding cleaning protocol and making hand sanitizers available. Fewer (67%) have trained workers on COVID-19 prevention – a step that may a potential ETS may require.