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On October 21, 2021, we published an article called “Waiting for OSHA: pending vaccine ETS and increased enforcement.” In the article, we discussed the then-pending Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) regarding vaccinating the workforce OSHA was tasked with developing by President Biden in his “Path Out of the Pandemic” memorandum. The ETS is scheduled

Since President Joe Biden issued his “Path Out of the Pandemic” memorandum and Executive Order 14042 on September 9, 2021, employers have had to navigate piecemeal instructions on vaccine mandates.  For example, federal contractors and subcontractors received vaccine mandate guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on September 24, 2021.  However, employers should not grow too comfortable with the current status of pandemic regulations, which continue to change in various jurisdictions and will again on a federal level soon.

OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard

In his “Path Out of the Pandemic” memorandum, President Biden specifically tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) with developing a rule to encourage vaccinations among the workforce – the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  The ETS will require employers with over 100 employees to do the following:

  1. either (a) ensure all employees are fully vaccinated, or (b) require any employees who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work; and
  2. provide paid time off for any time to get vaccinated and/or to recover if they are ill post-vaccination.

State plans will be required to implement equally protective rules within 30 days.  Though not yet available for review, the status of the pending ETS remains under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget.Continue Reading Waiting for OSHA: pending vaccine ETS and increased enforcement

On October 18, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Strategic Roadmap (the Roadmap) detailing steps that the EPA plans to take to address PFAS contamination. PFAS are largely unregulated, but studies linking certain PFAS to health issues and their persistence in the environment and human body are driving the push for increased regulation. Currently, the EPA has established only a non-enforceable health advisory level for two PFAS, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Additionally, some states have been moving forward at different speeds to establish state-specific PFAS regulations, including drinking water standards and cleanup levels for soil and groundwater remediation. However, the EPA’s Roadmap suggests increased federal regulation looms.

The EPA’s approach under the Roadmap considers the lifecycle of PFAS, focusing not only on remediating PFAS-contaminated sites and regulating PFAS discharges or emissions, but also regulating PFAS at the upstream level where they are produced and incorporated into products. Other areas of focus called out in the Roadmap include (1) an emphasis on enforcement actions at PFAS-contaminated sites and placing responsibilities for limiting exposure on manufacturers, processors, distributors, and similar users; (2) research into PFAS over health effects and remediation technologies; and (3) an environmental justice focus on prioritization of PFAS effects on disadvantaged communities.Continue Reading U.S. EPA releases Roadmap to address PFAS contamination

On Friday June 11, 2021, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) published new proposed text for re-adoption of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  After previously voting against adopting Cal/OSHA’s initial revised ETS during a highly contentious public meeting earlier this month, during which critics vehemently objected to the rule’s continuation of

Late last week, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Standards Board”) reconvened in a public meeting to consider the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS).  The new proposed ETS was developed to replace the existing ETS that has been in place since December 1, 2020.

A prior draft of the ETS was initially to be considered in a May meeting, but it was tabled to allow Cal/OSHA the opportunity for revisions to align with State and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.  Cal/OSHA made a few revisions to the prior draft of the ETS, the most important of which are detailed below:

  • The physical distancing section has been simplified.  As was the case with the prior version of the ETS, physical distancing is still only required for all employees until July 31.  From the passage date until July 31st,  employers have the option to: (1) ensure distancing; or (2) provide unvaccinated employees with respirators for voluntary use.  The distancing requirements (if that option is selected) are similar to the previous requirements.
  • There is a requirement to maintain physical distancing when a face covering is required but not worn, but only if the face covering is not worn for either of two very specific reasons, (1) where an employee cannot wear a face covering due to a medical condition or (2) where specific tasks cannot feasibly be performed with a face covering.  The other exceptions to the face covering requirements do not trigger this physical distancing requirement.
  • The requirement to evaluate the need for respiratory protection when distancing cannot be maintained prior to July 31 has been removed.
  • Cal/OSHA has added “outdoor mega events” as a defined term and has added new requirements for outdoor mega events that are similar to those for employees working indoors with a few notable exceptions.  An outdoor mega event is defined as an outdoor event with 10,000+ participants (g., theme parks, concerts, etc.).
  • The exception that previously excluded fully vaccinated individuals from becoming COVID-19 cases has been removed.  Importantly, however, the exception from excluding fully vaccinated individuals who have had close contact remains unchanged.

Continue Reading Cal Safety Standards Board approves second COVID-19 ETS

The regular session of the Texas Legislature came to a fraught end on May 31, 2021. The political spectacle in recent days capped off a legislative session dramatically interrupted by a winter storm in February that crippled much of the state with snow, ice, and power outages. That natural disaster led to intense scrutiny of the state’s power distribution infrastructure and calls to weatherize the power grid.

In response, the Texas Legislature approved legislation aimed at addressing some of the infrastructure issues caused by the storm. The Legislature’s response to the storm understandably received much attention. Perhaps this allowed another energy infrastructure bill—one that makes a big statement in terms of energy and climate policy—to pass without similar attention.

House Bill 17 passed the Texas Legislature earlier this year and was signed into law by Governor Abbott on May 18, 2021. The law prohibits Texas localities from restricting or discriminating against utility infrastructure based on the type or source of the energy delivered to the end-use customer. The law also prohibits Texas localities from imposing additional charges on development and building permit applicants that encourage or discourage the installation of infrastructure based on the type or source of energy. While not expressly stated, the intent of the bill is to prohibit localities from phasing out natural gas and its infrastructure.Continue Reading Texas keeps the gas taps flowing, but will others do the same as energy infrastructure takes center stage?

Earlier today, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board held a public meeting to consider, among other items, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which was developed to replace the existing ETS that has been in place since December 1, 2020.

During the initial portion of the meeting, the Standards Board heard comments from the public and various stakeholders, who, as during previous public meetings, advocated for and against continued restrictions in the workplace. Following the public comment portion, Eric Berg on behalf of Cal/OSHA described the timeline of the agency developing the rule and finalizing its draft revised ETS.  In particular Berg noted that, after the rule was developed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance that vaccinated individuals could go without masks indoors, followed by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announcement that it would implement the same guidance on June 15, 2021.  This caused Cal/OSHA last night to send a memorandum to the Standards Board requesting that the Board not adopt the revised ETS because the agency wanted to have the opportunity to revisit the proposed rule in light of the updated CDC guidance, and re-submit a proposed rule at a future date.  Berg reiterated this request during the meeting, indicating that Cal/OSHA would like to target implementing a revised draft of the ETS on June 15, to coincide with the governor’s lifting of mask requirements.Continue Reading Cal Safety Standards Board defers voting on second COVID-19 ETS until June

With vaccination rates on a rise, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal-OSHA”) have proposed revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”).  On May 20, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is expected to decide on whether to send the draft revisions to the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”).