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What to know about how and when Maryland companies will have to comply with new federal COVID safety rules

Large companies will need to fully vaccinate employees for COVID or begin testing employees who decline vaccination by early January under rules announced by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration Thursday.

But because Maryland has its own workplace safety agency, the state could need to come up with its own rules for vaccine and testing requirements. Here’s how that process will work:

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Will Maryland employers need to require COVID vaccines?

Yes. Federal law requires Maryland to either adopt those new emergency rules directly — which apply to Americans working for companies with 100 or more employees and go into effect on Jan. 4 — or create even stricter state-level standards.

When will the state make that decision?

Maryland’s own state-level workplace safety regulators will need to move quickly.

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The rules released Thursday by OSHA give states with their own workplace safety agencies, including Maryland, no more than 15 days to decide which route to go and require that states fully adopt the new slate of regulations within 30 days.

That could create a race against the clock for state officials, since the state’s agency — Maryland Occupational Safety and Health — will need to formally draft regulations and go through a legally mandated regulatory review process which also requires approval by state lawmakers.

A simple majority of lawmakers on the General Assembly’s 19-member Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review would need to sign off on the regulations and could vote to approve the rules as soon as 10 days after receiving a draft from MOSH.

What will Gov. Hogan do?

Lawyers were reviewing the roughly 400-page federal document on Thursday, said Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, but Ricci said it appeared to be “an open question of whether the state could adopt the regulation within the 30 days.”

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Ricci did not immediately respond to an inquiry about whether the Hogan administration might consider proposing stricter rules in place of the federal mandate.

Will the requirements apply to state workers?

It’s not clear. Ricci said Thursday that lawyers were also reviewing those requirements to determine if state government was a covered employer. The federal mandate applies to federal executive branch employees, according to a FactCheck.org review.

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