Manufacturing employers continue to feel the brunt of emerging and evolving trends related to the COVID-19 pandemic: workplace safety, labor shortages, absence management, remote technology, and employee retention — just to name a few. On the workplace safety front, mask mandates, testing protocols, and vaccine issues continue to make headlines, including President Joe Biden’s September 9, 2021 announcement regarding vaccine and testing requirements for companies with 100 or more employees. These developments have all employers looking at strategies for how to comply with an upcoming Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for employers with 100 or more employees from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had announced this spring its intention to implement a new heat illness standard that will apply to indoor environments. Now, the U.S. Department of Labor has announced “enhanced and expanded” efforts to address heat-related illnesses as part of the Biden Administration’s commitment to workplace safety, climate resilience, and environmental justice.

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On September 9, 2021, the White House issued Path Out of the Pandemic: President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan (the Plan). The Plan outlines a six-pronged approach, portions of which will impose new obligations on employers across the country.

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In June, with much fanfare, California announced it was reopening and lifting many of the COVID-19 restrictions that had been in place through state executive and health department orders. However, as there have been surges of COVID-19 across the state, many state and local orders requiring COVID-19 controls have changed in response. Mask mandates and vaccination requirements for certain workers, in particular, have been on the rise. Employers should carefully review new state and local guidance as well as their procedures to account for the new developments.

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This past spring, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced its intention to implement a new heat illness standard that will apply to indoor environments. The agency said it has manufacturing facilities in mind, as the rule targets “indoor workers without climate-controlled environments.”

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The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, AFL-CIO, CLC (UFCW), and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) have filed a petition for review of OSHA’s recent COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) in the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. The ETS covers only healthcare settings where COVID-19 patients are treated.

According to the petition, UFCW and AFL-CIO have requested review on the grounds that the ETS “fails to protect employees outside the healthcare industry who face a similar grave danger from occupational exposure to COVID-19.” A June 10, 2021, statement issued by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka indicates that the union is particularly concerned about workers in industries with high rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths, such as meatpacking, grocery, transportation, and corrections. UFCW and AFL-CIO’s statement of issues is due to the court on July 26, 2021.

National Nurses United (NNU) also filed a petition for review of the ETS in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on June 24, 2021. NNU did not identify the grounds for review in the petition and withdrew the petition on July 7, 2021.

 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) regulatory agenda for spring 2021 lists regulations the agency will focus on for the next six months, including 26 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, six of which are in the final rule stage and the rest are in the proposed or pre-rule stage. Many of them will directly affect the construction industry.

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