A united front

The construction industry bands together to share concerns regarding COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

During a recent NRCA board of directors meeting, members expressed concern and displeasure with the impending federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would require all employers with 100 or more employees to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or submit unvaccinated workers to frequent testing. Members were concerned not only with compliance but also how exemptions would be offered and general logistics.

In response to members’ concerns, NRCA joined a Construction Industry Safety Coalition with 25 other trade organizations to send a letter to OSHA asking the agency to recognize the unique aspects of construction when developing its vaccine-related Emergency Temporary Standard.

As part of President Biden’s Path out of the Pandemic COVID-19 Action Plan, OSHA has been directed to develop a rule to “require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” The rule also will require employers with more than 100 employees to provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated or to recover if they are feeling ill post-vaccination.

The coalition supports Biden’s goal of increasing vaccinations among the population and has undertaken numerous efforts to increase worker awareness of and access to vaccines in the construction industry. However, Biden’s plan provides little detail regarding how OSHA is to apply and craft the regulatory approach to implement the mandate. Given the importance of this initiative and the significant implications for the construction industry, the Construction Industry Safety Coalition letter notes the following concerns (among others):

  • The construction industry has been proactive in promoting the vaccine to its workforce.
  • Those in the construction industry are at relatively low risk compared with high-risk sectors, such as first responders, grocery store employees, educators and manufacturing plant employees.
  • The construction industry already is facing a labor crisis, and a vaccine mandate may exacerbate the issue.
  • It is unclear who will pay for testing unvaccinated employees, and testing kits in some regions are difficult to obtain.
  • The mandate would create an undue and costly paperwork burden.

The letter ultimately asks OSHA to seek formal public comment on the rule, which will allow for these concerns to be addressed. We will keep readers apprised of new developments as they occur.

AMBIKA PUNIANI REID is editor of Professional Roofing and NRCA’s vice president of communications.


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