The Construction Industry Safety Coalition sent a letter to James Frederick, acting assistant secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, voicing concerns related to OSHA’s forthcoming COVID-19 vaccination and testing Emergency Temporary Standard.
As part of President Biden’s "Path out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan," the commander-in-chief directed OSHA to develop a rule to “require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.”
The rule will also require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for the time it takes for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are “under the weather” post-vaccination, as CISC points out in its letter.
While the CISC said it supports the President’s goal of increasing vaccinations among the population and undertook numerous efforts to increase worker awareness of—and access to—vaccines in the construction industry, the "Plan provides little detail as to how OSHA is to apply and craft the regulatory approach to implement President Biden’s mandate," CISC writes.
"How OSHA applies the standard will have significant implications for the construction industry and for the construction workforce, particularly since OSHA has generally characterized the construction industry as low risk," it says in the letter. "Given the importance of this initiative, the CISC is submitting this letter to ensure that OSHA understands some of the key issues of concern to the construction industry."
The Associated Builders and Contractors is a steering committee member of the CISC.
In addition to releasing a statement regarding the federal contractor vaccine mandate guidance, ABC also replied to the CISC's letter.
“Because OSHA’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing ETS is expected to be the most far-reaching standard ever issued by the agency, it is imperative that OSHA listen to input from the construction industry, which employs 7.4 million individuals,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC VP of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “Despite the efforts of a range of stakeholders, vaccine hesitancy remains an ongoing, complicated reality in countless industries. How the ETS is crafted will have significant, lasting impacts by driving workers away from larger firms and disrupting construction projects without raising the vaccination rate.
“Our key areas of concern are workforce shortages that would be exacerbated by the ETS, employer and employee obligations for vaccinations and testing, paperwork burdens, recordability of adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine, cost of paid time off for vaccinations and adverse reactions, and availability of testing kits," Brubeck continued. "The COVID-19 pandemic has already created and accelerated a host of challenges for the construction industry, including a skilled workforce shortage, rising material costs, supply chain disruptions, jobsite shut-downs, additional health and safety protocols and new government regulations. The forthcoming ETS only adds to this long list of concerns.
“ABC continues to encourage construction industry stakeholders to implement effective COVID-19 safety plans and to get vaccinated because ensuring healthy and safe work environments for employees is a top priority of ABC and its members. ABC is philosophically opposed to federal mandates that undermine the desired policy outcome. ABC plans to be fully engaged in the forthcoming OSHA ETS rule and is evaluating legal options on compliance," he concluded.
On Sept. 24, ABC, as a steering committee member of the Coalition for Workplace Safety, also sent a letter to OSHA Acting Assistant Secretary James Frederick, stating that OSHA should consider questions and seek written input from stakeholders before issuing any ETS.
"To do otherwise invites avoidable implementation challenges and costs that would undermine achieving the goals of the ETS," according to ABC.
In June, CISC issued a statement regarding OSHA's decision to apply an Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 only to the healthcare industry.