4 Nov 2021
Thursday, November 4, 2021
Melissa Moriarty, [email protected], 603-505-7135
National COSH on New
OSHA Vaccine and Testing Standard
New Rules Can Increase Vaccination Rates
Paid time off for vaccines and recovery is a plus, but employers should pay cost of masks and testing; Shifting burden to workers is â€œwrong-headed and unprecedentedâ€
Note to reporters and editors: National COSH co-executive directors Jessica E. Martinez and Marcy Goldstein-Gelb are available for interviews on the new OSHA ETS today; contact Melissa Moriarty, [email protected], 603-505-7135
Leaders of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) said today that a new COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard issued by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can increase vaccination rates, but said it is a mistake to push the cost of testing and masks on to workers.
â€œNational COSH supports science-based standards to protect workers from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic,â€ said Jessica E. Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. â€œBased on evidence from employers where a vaccine requirement is already in effect, this new standard can increase vaccination rates among more than 80 million U.S. private sector workers.
â€œWe” re glad to see this standard include paid time off for workers to get a vaccine and recover from any side effects. But It’s very unfortunate that this new rule does not require employers to pay for face masks, or for the cost of testing for workers who choose not to get vaccinated,â€ said Martinez.â€
â€œPushing these costs onto workers is wrong-headed and an unprecedented departure from all previous OSHA standards,â€ she added. â€œEmployers, who have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, have always been required to pay the costs of tests and screening for occupational illnesses and for personal protective equipment; this case should be no different.
During a recent National COSH media briefing, a poultry worker who is a member of the Western North Carolina Workers Center described difficult working conditions, which show the need for increased safety protocols, even after 21 months of a deadly global pandemic.
â€œEvery one of us in my plant — every single worker — has been infected with COVID-19,â€ said Marielena, who used a pseudonym to protect her privacy. â€œThere is no physical distancing. They put sanitation stations up, but they are more for show than to be used. Our supervisors pressure us to use every available minute to chase chickens and slaughter them. There is no time or support for observing safety rules.â€
â€œVaccines and testing are safe and effective and one part — but not the only part — of a comprehensive approach to reduce the risk of COVID-19,â€ said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, also a co-executive director of National COSH. â€œFor any plan to really work, the first thing employers should do is listen to workers, who know how work gets done and how to make their workplaces safer.
â€œRather than a narrow focus on whether individual workers are vaccinated, a more productive approach will be to focus on every employer’s legal responsibility to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards,â€ said Goldstein-Gelb.
â€œTo prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, we need a full-court press, including social distancing, improved ventilation, shift rotation, paid sick leave, and employer-provided masks and other protective equipment,â€ she continued. â€œIt’s also essential to enforce strong protections for illegal retaliation against workers who raise safety concerns on the job.â€
â€œWhile these new rules can be improved,â€ said National COSH Co-Executive Director Martinez, â€œwe” re also concerned about misguided lawsuits to block the entire new OSHA vaccine and testing standard, weeks before it even goes into effect. Instead of political posturing, we should all be focused on how we can do more — not less — for the workers who have sustained us throughout this pandemic.â€
National COSH links the efforts of local worker health and safety coalitions in communities across the United States, advocating for elimination of preventable hazards in the workplace.For more information, please visit nationalcosh.org. Follow us at National Council for Occupational Safety and Health on Facebook, @NationalCOSH on Twitter and @NationalCOSH on Instagram.