Breaking News
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your experience. Save up to 40% More details

Biden vaccine mandate will test OSHA, U.S. workplace regulator

CoronavirusSep 13, 2021 11:21AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
2/2 © Reuters. People stand by the side of the road to protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates at Summa Health Hospital in Akron, Ohio, U.S., August 16, 2021. REUTERS/Stephen Zenner 2/2

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. agency in charge of the Biden administration's new rules requiring COVID-19 vaccination at many private workplaces faces stiff challenges in developing and enforcing the mandate.

President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that all staff at U.S. private-sector firms with 100 or more employees will have to ensure staff are fully vaccinated or tested regularly.

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is in charge of formulating and enforcing the rule, which will be rolled out in the coming weeks. But the agency is significantly understaffed, and its emergency rulemaking mechanism has a mixed track record. The mandate already faces Republican political opposition and promised legal challenges.

With more than 80 million workers covered, "OSHA won't be able to police every employer," said A. Scott Hecker, a labor lawyer in Washington at Seyfarth Shaw.OSHA plans to publish an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to enact the new requirements, the White House said Friday. That measure, which is used to accelerate urgent rules, has only been used 10 times in OSHA's 50-year history. Courts have invalidated or halted four of those rules and partially blocked one, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The ETS process was last used in June to institute healthcare workplace rules to stop the spread of coronavirus. Before that, OSHA's last ETS was 38 years ago.

The June rule took five months for OSHA to formulate after an executive order by Biden. Unions sued to challenge it, claiming that it did not do enough to protect workers outside healthcare.

The new vaccination rule would likely be in effect while any legal challenges played out, but OSHA's low success rate with ETS rules undercuts its ability to instill fear in scofflaws.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki insisted the effort was on strong legal footing, citing a 1970 law that authorizes ETS.

"The law basically requires the Department of Labor take action when it finds grave risk to workers. And certainly a pandemic that killed more than 600,000 people qualifies as 'grave risk to workers,'" she said.

As OSHA writes the vaccine rule, some business groups are clamoring for more information.

The Consumer Brands Association - which represents consumer packaged goods companies like Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) Co, Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) Co, Kellogg (NYSE:K) Co and General Mills Inc (NYSE:GIS) - wrote Biden on Monday seeking "immediate clarity" on issues like how workers should prove they are documented and whether they need to be fully vaccinated to work.


OSHA's effectiveness is also undermined by its shortage of inspectors and resources. While OSHA is empowered to fine employers up to $13,600 per violation of the new rule, it is spread too thin to catch some violators.

OSHA now has an estimated 800 safety and compliance inspectors to cover the more than 100,000 private-sector companies affected by the new rule.

Then-President Donald Trump in 2019 reduced the agency's number of workplace safety inspectors to the lowest level since the early 1970s, shortly after OSHA's founding by fellow Republican President Richard Nixon in 1971. Biden and Democrats in Congress want a big boost in OSHA funding.

In addition, the agency has largely failed to hold employers accountable for unsafe conditions during the pandemic, Reuters reported earlier this year, identifying dozens of workplaces where employees complained of slipshod pandemic safety. Regulators never inspected the facilities or, in some cases, took months to do so.

Two-thirds of employers cited by OSHA for COVID-19 safety violations had not paid fines, and more than half appealed the OSHA citations.

One weapon on OSHA's side is news coverage and public attention. Last year, a former OSHA official posted on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) that an OSHA news release achieved as much compliance as 210 inspections.

Biden vaccine mandate will test OSHA, U.S. workplace regulator

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email