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Contractors, Subs Mandated for Vaccine

Monday, October 4, 2021

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In new guidance issued by President Joe Biden, federal contractors and subcontractors are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8.

The official mandate follows President Biden’s executive order, which was issued at the beginning of September.

Emergency Standards

Last month, in a statement issued by the White House, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that it was drafting a new temporary emergency standard that would require employers with more than 100 employees to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The alternative option for unvaccinated workers requires proof of a weekly negative test result. In addition, the proposed rules also planned to mandate that businesses offer employees paid time off to get vaccinated and/or to recover from post-vaccination side effects.

Irina Shatilova / Getty Images

In new guidance issued by President Joe Biden, federal contractors and subcontractors are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8.

The announcement arrived as a part of President Biden’s six-pronged comprehensive national strategy to combat COVID-19. The prongs of the White House plan are as follows:

  • Vaccinating the Unvaccinated;
  • Further Protecting the Vaccinated;
  • Keeping Schools Safely Open;
  • Increasing Testing & Requiring Masking;
  • Protecting Our Economic Recovery; and
  • Improving Care for those with COVID-19.

According to The New York Times, the rules will affect some 80 million workers. At the time, the new standard was slated to be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government, as well as some 17 million health care workers in hospitals and other institutions that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.

Such a standard pre-empts existing rules by state governments, except in states that have their own OSHA-approved workplace agencies—or roughly half the states in the country. States with their own programs will have 30 days to adopt a standard that is at least as effective, and that must cover state and local government employees. Federal OSHA rules do not cover state and local government employees.

Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors

The recently issued guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force applies to all covered contractor employees, including “contractor or subcontractor employees in covered contractor workplaces who are not working on a federal government contract or contract-like instrument.”

The guidance goes on to report that it will also apply to “subcontractors at all tiers, except for subcontracts solely for the provision of products,” in addition to all workplace locations as well as individuals on remote work or who work outside.

Companies that are currently doing business with the government directly have been required to designate a coordinator to implement the new workplace safety requirements.

Under the new rules, federal contractors and subcontractors with a covered contract will be required to conform to the following workplace safety protocols:                     

  • COVID-19 vaccination of covered contractor employees, except in limited circumstances where an employee is legally entitled to an accommodation;
  • Compliance by individuals, including covered contractor employees and visitors, with the Guidance related to masking and physical distancing while in covered contractor workplaces; and
  • Designation by covered contractors of a person or persons to coordinate COVID-19 workplace safety efforts at covered contractor workplaces.

A full copy of the new guidance can be viewed here.

Industry Response

On the same day the new guidance was issued, Ben Brubeck, Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs of the Associated Builders and Contractors, released the following statement:

“ABC continues to encourage construction industry stakeholders to get vaccinated, because ensuring healthy and safe work environments for employees is a top priority of ABC and its members. However, today’s Task Force guidance is very broad in scope and raises a number of unresolved questions.

“We will be reviewing the guidance carefully with industry stakeholders to understand its full impact and unintended consequences. However, based on our initial reading, this guidance will result in additional compliance burdens, exacerbate the construction industry’s skilled workforce shortage and increase costs for federal contractors and taxpayers.

“This is a top issue for the contracting community and adds to a list of concerns. As with most industries, the COVID-19 pandemic has already created and accelerated a host of challenges facing the construction industry, which includes a skilled workforce shortage, rising material costs, supply chain disruptions, jobsite shut-downs, additional health and safety protocols and new government regulations.”

Looking ahead, Brubeck reported that ABC would be participating in the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council’s rulemaking process for this rule and will be fully engaged in the forthcoming OSHA ETS rule applying to all employers with 100 or more employees.

In taking additional measures, ABC was also reported to have sent a letter to OMB and the Task Force on behalf of its federal contractor members with practical feedback on the EO, which includes 25 questions and concerns raised by the federal contracting community since the EO’s release on Sept. 9.

Recently, in Australia, project sites were shut down after construction workers engaged in violent protests regarding Australia’s Victorian Government announcement to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.

The announcement to require mandatory vaccination for construction workers arrived amid the country’s uptick in delta variant cases. The new mandate required that construction workers across Victoria show evidence to their employers that they have had the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 23.

In other U.S. locations taking on their own mandates, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently required that all employees working as K-12 educators, health care workers and all state employees would need to be vaccinated to work.

The newly mandated employees were given until Oct. 18 to be vaccinated or they could face termination. For those opposing the mandate, some have also gone to protesting; however, a group of state police and firefighters went as far to sue Brown over the requirement.

The friction between employees and employers over vaccinations is likely to increase in coming weeks.

   

Tagged categories: Contractors; COVID-19; Department of Labor; Good Technical Practice; Government; Health and safety; NA; North America; OSHA; President Biden; Regulations; Safety; Subcontractors

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