President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate will require all companies with more than 100 employees to have workers vaccinated or regularly tested for COVID-19, or be subject to $13,653 fines. It’s an act to bring the latest surge in infections down and will likely be enacted in six to eight weeks, says the National Association of Home Builders. This is because the mandate will serve as an emergency temporary standard from OSHA, which grants the agency to immediately enact a rule if workers are in “grave danger” due to exposure of a toxic substance or agents determined to be physically harmful. The vast majority of home builders have fewer than 100 employees, so the mandate should not directly affect most NAHB members. But the extension of strong federal workforce rules to contractors could be problematic down the road, as much of the home building industry is run on contracted relationships.
The new mandate will be levied and enforced through a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) from OSHA in the coming weeks. OSHA’s authority allows the agency to immediately enact a rule if “workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards.”
During an information session late last week attended by NAHB staff, OSHA said it expects the ETS to be ready in six to eight weeks. There will be no opportunity for industry or the public to provide input on the ETS, and when it is published to the Federal Register, it will take effect immediately.
There will be a chance to comment on a final rule, expected six months after the ETS is published.
OSHA will enforce the mandate with inspections and can levy fines up to $13,653 per violation, OSHA’s maximum penalty, although it is unclear whether that applies to each site or employee.
In fact, there are still many unanswered questions about the ETS. OSHA last week could not answer specific questions from industry stakeholders, including:
• Who pays for testing?
• How will employers verify vaccinations and test results?
• How do companies handle employees who refuse to vaccinate or test?