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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is formally withdrawing its emergency temporary standard requiring large companies to require their employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, the agency announced Jan. 25.
The withdrawal of the standard comes after a Jan. 13 U.S. Supreme Court opinion staying the standard, saying that challengers to the rule, including American Trucking Associations, were likely to prevail on their claims. The high court voted 6-3 to stay the temporary standard, ruling that OSHA did not have the authority to issue the mandate.
“This agency action becomes effective immediately both because there is good cause and because the action removes a requirement on the regulated community,” OSHA said.
The high court’s decision was lauded by the trucking industry, including ATA, and other challengers, who have argued that if the Supreme Court allowed the mandate, the result would likely cause a large number of resignations among truck drivers.
“We successfully challenged this misguided mandate all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, because it was a clear overstep of OSHA’s authority, and because it would have had disastrous consequences for an already-overstressed supply chain,” ATA President Chris Spear said in a Jan. 25 statement. “The Supreme Court bounced it, and we are pleased to see the agency has now formally withdrawn it, sending this ETS to the dustbin where it belongs.”
The mandate, issued Nov. 5, would have required companies with 100 or more employees to see that their employees get vaccinated, or wear face coverings and test weekly.
OSHA said that public comments on the mandate withdrawal would be “impracticable, unnecessary and contrary to the public interest because it would unnecessarily delay the resolution of ambiguity for employers and workers alike.”
The agency’s pre-publication Federal Register announcement said: “Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the vaccination and testing [emergency temporary standard], OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.”
Supporters have argued that the mandate is the best way to reduce the number of COVID infections and deaths.
Although the justices issued a stay — or hold — on the mandate, sending it back down to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the withdrawal by OSHA effectively signals the end of a possible challenge by the Labor Department.
Earlier in January, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said he was disappointed in the court’s decision, calling it a “major setback to the health and safety of workers across the country.”
“OSHA will be evaluating all options to ensure workers are protected from this deadly virus,” Walsh said. “OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers, including under the COVID-19 National Emphasis Program and General Duty Clause.”
The agency’s NEP, revised in July, augments OSHA’s efforts addressing unprogrammed COVID-19-related activities, such as complaints, referrals and severe incident reports, by “adding a component to target specific high-hazard industries or activities where this hazard is prevalent.”
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