The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) might rely on tattletales within companies to speed up their enforcement of President Joe Biden’s currently unenforceable directive forcing private sector businesses to mandate the COVID-19 shot for employees, Bloomberg Law reported on Wednesday.
Biden first directed OSHA to create a rule in early September, but it was this week that the regulatory agency sent its proposal to the White House for review. While the details of the rule are still under private review, OSHA told Bloomberg that “when necessary, OSHA has several methods to hold employers accountable for the safety and health of their workers.”
OSHA also told Bloomberg that a “vast majority” of businesses are already in compliance with the agency’s imminent shot standards. This aligns with accounts from companies such as Southwest Airlines, which tried to blame its COVID-19 jab requirement on Biden’s nonexistent directive. Those businesses that fail to comply with OSHA’s pending order, however, will be subject to punishment from the agency largely through reporting from workers at non-compliant companies.
Biden said his vaccine proclamation should encompass approximately 130 million of the workers in the U.S. workforce, but OSHA currently only employs 1,850 inspectors, which the agency notes is “about one compliance officer for every 70,000 workers.” Thanks in part to this shortage of oversight, this method is already used by the agency to target businesses that are not following the Emergency Temporary Standard related to COVID-19 protocols and health care facilities.
“OSHA regional offices are stretched thin and there are only so many bodies to go around,” Amanda Flanagan, a safety attorney at Sheehy, Ware, Pappas & Grubbs, P.C. in Houston told Bloomberg. “OSHA is going to have to investigate those.”
OSHA also plans to leverage other government agencies to carry out mass investigations and citations.
“However, if and when it is enforced, the agency likely will focus its efforts on those states where vaccine levels are lowest and infection rates are highest,” Bloomberg reported.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki touted Biden’s vaccine press release on Tuesday as “federal law.” She later acknowledged that the president’s wishes are currently unenforceable until OSHA completes the rule-creating process.
“I would say that requiring and mandating for businesses of 100 people or over vaccines is not a small task. That is a big, bold proposal idea and something that we want to implement with as much clarity as we can,” she said. “We know there will be questions, even after these rules are put out, we understand that. But that’s why we wanted to take a little bit of time, not too much time, to get it done.”