OSHA Extends Mandate Comment Period. Small Businesses Should Take Notice

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According to a recent Charlotte Business Journal article, “employers will have more time to weigh in on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) mandate-or-testing rule for Covid-19 — and even small employers not affected by the rule would be wise to submit their feedback. OSHA has extended the comment period to Jan. 19. The first deadline, which calls for large employers to require masking of unvaccinated workers, is Dec. 6. The deadline to either mandate the vaccine or require weekly testing for unvaccinated workers is Jan. 4. However, both of those deadlines are temporarily suspended due to a federal court temporarily blocking implementation or enforcement of the ETS — leaving employers in what has become a frustrating and familiar state of limbo surrounding federal Covid-19 recommendations and requirements.

The case is awaiting action by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Bob Nichols, a partner at Bracewell LLP, said the court's schedule suggests it may not act right away.

For those reasons, OSHA is encouraging small businesses to share their perspectives on the mandate-or-testing rule in the event it considers a similar rule for small businesses down the line. Comments can be shared at www.regulations.gov.

OSHA said the 100-employee threshold was chosen because of a belief that organizations of that size have the administrative capacity to set and enforce the standards. The comment period could help regulators understand the administrative burden the rule could have on smaller employers — among other tangible effects. Experts have told The Business Journals that even large organizations will face new burdens and obstacles from the rule, such as religious and medical accommodation requests, issues with verifying vaccination status on an ongoing basis and questions over the testing component.”