OSHA blocked by court order

OSHA blocked from mandatory vaccine, testing effort

Nov. 20, 2021
Most dental offices are unaffected by the latest ruling, but an OSHA and HIPAA compliance expert says that larger organizations, namely DSOs, should prepare for possible future implementation.
Elizabeth S. Leaver, Digital content manager
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it’s suspending all efforts related to a recent mandate compelling COVID-19 vaccination and testing in the workplace.

This case concerns OSHA’s most recent Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), a November 5 mandate requiring employees of covered employers to get vaccinated or take weekly COVID-19 tests and wear a mask.

The subsequent court order on November 12 from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals states, in part, that petitioners’ standing “to sue is obvious—the Mandate imposes a financial burden upon them by deputizing their participation in OSHA’s regulatory scheme, exposes them to severe financial risk if they refuse or fail to comply, and threatens to decimate their workforces (and business prospects) by forcing unwilling employees to take their shots, take their tests, or hit the road.”

The ETS suspension is not expected to affect most dental practices, which had been largely exempted from OSHA rulings on COVID-19 for health-care workplace settings.

However, this and subsequent rulings could affect organizations with more than 100 employees. In dentistry, this would apply mainly to DSOs, said Lori Hendrick, owner of North Carolina-based Athena Dental Solutions, LLC. Hendrick also provides dental offices with OSHA and HIPAA compliance training.

“DSOs would have to consider if it is applicable to their practices especially, if they run all employees under one payroll, which would likely put them over 100 employees,” said Hendrick. “The 100-employee threshold is based on the total company head count, not the number of employees at a particular office or site.”

With a December 6 deadline for complying with all aspects of the ETS except for the vaccine mandate (and January 4 for the vaccine/testing mandate), Hendrick said, “Employers with 100 or more combined employees are encouraged to start preparing for implementation in the future.”

“Passage of the ETS would be expensive for employers as the standard places the burden of testing, time off for illness, sick time after exposure, time off for vaccinations, and time off for vaccination reactions on the employer,” Hendrick added. “Additionally, the dental community is already facing a workforce shortage in auxiliaries; forcing vaccinations would likely exacerbate that problem with no solution in the near future. Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, research has shown that the prevalence of COVID 19 among dental personnel is at 2.6%.”