Stock photo of man in face mask receiving arm vaccine from doctor in stethoscope and gloves

After months of national debate, the Supreme Court has officially blocked the enforcement of OSHA’s controversial workplace vaccine mandate.

The mandate, which required workers at private businesses with at least 100 employees to be vaccinated or submit weekly negative COVID tests in order to enter the workplace, was expected to impact roughly 7.4 million workers in the construction sector.

While most construction firms will move forward with their own individual workplace safety plans, many appear to applaud the court’s decision and feel the mandate would have only worsened an industry-wide employment shortage.

“This is a big win in removing compliance hurdles for the construction industry, which is facing multiple economic challenges, including a workforce shortage of 430,000, rising materials prices, and supply chain issues,” said Ben Brubeck, Vice President of regulatory, labor, and state affairs at the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).

While significant growth in construction spending, and in particular home building, has continued to lead the economy’s recovery, the construction industry as a whole has struggled to keep up.

Some estimates suggest that in order to sustain the industry, construction firms will need to hire roughly 740,000 new employees every year. By 2024, there will be a need for over 2.2 million new positions — and construction businesses may feel that any downward pressure on this growth could seriously hamper the industry’s long-term health.

In its opinion, the Supreme Court wrote “although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly.”

Many construction groups appear to agree with the court’s decision.

“The Supreme Court made the right call,” said Brian Turmail, Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives at the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC).

“There is good reason to expect the administration’s OSHA vaccine mandate will not pass legal muster and pausing it now will protect countless firms from the inevitable harm the mandate will cause,” Turmail said.

In November of 2021, the AGC, the Signatory Wall & Ceiling Contractors Alliance (SWACCA), and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association filed a petition challenging OSHA’s ruling.

Some large private businesses like Nike and CitiGroup have instituted their own employee vaccination requirements — and have even warned that they would begin firing unvaccinated workers.

Moving forward, contractors will largely be left to formulate their own workplace safety plans, compliant with any state or local restrictions.

Construction leaders such as the AGC, the ABC, and others, have pledged to make workplace safety resources and information readily available to the industry.

“ABC continues to support vaccinations and encourages members to use its COVID-19 vaccination toolkit to keep workers safe on construction jobsites,” said Brubeck.

“We will continue our efforts to encourage more workers to get vaccinated, including releasing a new series of Spanish language COVID vaccine PSAs to complement the English versions we released at the end of last year,” said Turmail of the AGC.

“This industry supports the coronavirus vaccine and is working to get as many workers vaccinated as possible,” said Scott Casabona, president of SWACCA. “But crafting an unworkable rule that will do little to get construction workers vaccinated is an approach that is not only wrong, but likely counterproductive.”