On Vaccination Mandates, Personal Freedoms and Worker Safety – Legal and Legislative

Using OSHA in this case is problematic, writes David Purinton, because it begins to significantly expand the agency’s power. If we allow this, where will it stop?

Photo via Mark Thomas/Pixabay

On January 13, the United States Supreme Court broke an emergency rule of the Biden administration which would have required companies with more than 100 employees to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly tests.

Under the rule, announced on September 9, companies would have been subject to a $14,000 fine per violation.

David Purinton is the owner of PurCo Fleet Services, a Spanish Fork, Utah-based risk management firm dedicated to loss prevention for vehicle rental companies.

Although PurCo does not have 100 employees, Purinton has been involved in state and local politics and community affairs since the company’s founding in 1993. Purinton has also served on the health data committee of the US Department of Health. Utah for eight years.

Purinton has been following state and federal guidelines related to COVID-19 for its business since they were implemented at the start of the pandemic. The mandate for the vaccine was announced on September 9.

At first, Purinton wondered why the rule would come from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), when OSHA is not an agency charged with monitoring public health.

“I told my family that was genius because it was the only way to be legal remotely warrant-wise,” he wrote in an email exchange. “They approached it from a ‘worker safety’ perspective. Absolutely brilliant.”

Utah’s state agency, Utah Occupational Safety and Health (UOSH), followed the mandate with a directive that businesses must place specifically worded signs at each entrance and at the front desk stating that “masks are necessary for entry.

“They left the policing to the owners of the business, but we weren’t responsible if a customer didn’t follow the directive, and we weren’t obligated to force employees to comply – so it was pretty toothless. “, he wrote. “We needed a sign!”

The federal and state agencies’ approach was to group its type of business with those covered by local health departments, such as restaurants and gyms.

“I personally found the use of OSHA in this case to be problematic (both Utah’s and the federal government’s) because it begins to greatly expand the power of this agency – if we allow it, where does it stop?” he wrote. “I think they can streamline almost any act that needs to be required if they’re doing it for ‘worker safety’.”

Purinton – who is vaccinated and says he understands what he calls the “windfall” of vaccines – is clear about OSHA’s benefits in creating physically safe environments around issues such as hazardous chemicals , machinery and indoor air quality.

However, following the Supreme Court case, Purinton noted what he calls the “slippery slope” of warrants. “There is a risk with the vaccine – are we requiring anything else in any situation that could possibly harm the person it is supposed to protect?” he wrote.

An example of a “hard hat” arose during the Supreme Court’s pleadings: Since OSHA requires a hard hat, is it possible that the very requirement to wear a hard hat could cause injury to the employee?

“It was powerful for me – it puts everything into perspective,” he wrote. “OSHA is designed to protect the individual worker. What do you say to the worker who is injured by the vaccine? »

Purinton questions a mandate that covers the entire population and can harm a certain (albeit small) percentage for the common good. “A real slippery slope for sure,” he wrote.

In Utah, lawmakers passed HB294, which gave the power to override executive branch warrants to lawmakers — county commissioners and state legislators themselves. “The law has become known as the “COVID endgame”. But this law has had its problems because we really aren’t in an “endgame” for COVID yet. However, at least the Utah bill has restored some of those necessary balances of power between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Now, if a COVID-19 warrant is passed in any Utah jurisdiction, it must expire in 30 days, although it is renewable. However, it can be overturned immediately by the county legislature or commission.

“I liked this approach because the COVID-19 vaccine mandate was never even envisioned as law – it was a workaround so there wasn’t a law in the first place,” he wrote. “The last thing I want is for the executive, or unelected bureaucrats, to create laws and guidelines – with associated penalties – without going through our legislators.”

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