Biden Administration Moves on COVID-19 and Extreme Heat Regulations to Protect Workers

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September 30, 2021

On September 9, 2021, President Joe Biden’s administration issued an executive order that will compel certain federal contractors and subcontractors to ensure their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19. Specifically,  Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors instructs the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force to issue guidance for qualifying contractors. The guidance will be vetted by the Office of Management and Budget before being issued, presumably by the end of September. Additionally, under the executive order, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation to require that all federal contracts entered into on or after October 15, 2021, are compliant with the executive order.

Separately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued updated guidance to help employers protect workers from COVID-19. According to OSHA, the updated guidance expands information on appropriate measures for protecting workers in higher-risk workplaces with mixed-vaccination-status workers.

Protecting workers from extreme heat was the topic of a September 20 OSHA press release. According to the announcement, OSHA is implementing an enforcement initiative on heat-related hazards, developing a National Emphasis Program on heat inspections, and launching a rulemaking process to develop a workplace heat standard. In addition, the agency is forming a National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Work Group to provide better understanding of challenges and to identify and share best practices to protect workers.

OSHA plans to increase enforcement efforts on days when the heat index exceeds 80°F and will focus on general industry, construction, agriculture, and maritime worksites where potential heat-related hazards exist. Additional regulatory measures combatting heat-related injuries are expected in 2021 and 2022.

IIBEC will provide updates of these regulations as they are issued.