OSHA vaccine mandate exempts outdoor employees
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standard (ETS) for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for larger, private employers released today exempts employees working outdoors and won’t take effect until Jan. 4, which is after the harvest season.
The OSHA summary of the rule notes, “The ETS does not apply to employees who do not report to a workplace where other individuals such as coworkers or customers are present, employees while they are working from home, or employees who work exclusively outdoors.”
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner said in a news release that he is still “disappointed” that the emergency temporary standard did not include other ”commonsense accommodations.”
“I am disappointed that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standard on a vaccine mandate for larger employers fails to adopt several commonsense accommodations to recognize the unique nature of agriculture,” Conner said in a news release.
“While the ETS compliance deadline does take farmer co-ops past harvest and does exempt employees working exclusively outdoors, implementing this standard will be disruptive and it contains no provisions included to help ensure the integrity of the food and agriculture supply chain,” Conner said.
“NCFC will be providing formal comments to OSHA outlining our concerns further and will work with our members to look for ways to minimize the disruptions this ETS will cause to a critical sector of our economy.”
But the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), whose members include food service, food processing and distribution workers, endorsed the rule.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said, “The new ETS announced today will go a long way to protect our members from contracting COVID-19.”
“Too many essential and frontline workers’ lives continue to be on the line in this pandemic, and having a standard to protect workers across the board is critical,” Appelbaum said. “The science shows the greatest protection against severe illness and death to COVID-19 workers can take for themselves and their families is to get vaccinated.”
“Our union has been negotiating terms for workers around vaccine mandates across many industries and this new standard will provide a unilateral standard, which includes an option to adopt a testing protocol and face coverings for workers who cannot be vaccinated. This ETS is a necessary win for workers who for too long under the last administration were left on the line unprotected.”
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