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The New OSHA COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate: What Employers Should Know

Osha guidelines for COVID
Caitlyn Blair

Get the Facts on the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS

Changing the way you are required to do business can be challenging for a workplace, but in many cases, keeping up with the times is required for the success of employers and employees. Employee health and safety is also essential, which is why it is important for businesses to be aware of the emergency temporary standard (ETS) which goes into effect on November 5, 2021. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an ETS to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. The ETS establishes a binding requirement to protect employees who work for large employers. By their definition, a large employer is a private business that employs 100 or more workers. Employers should also be aware of the following aspects of the rule:

  • In addition to private businesses with 100 or more employees, it applies to certain health care workers and federal contractors
  • The rule allows employees to remain unvaccinated if they provide a negative test to their employer on a weekly basis and wear face masks in the workplace starting December 5, 2021

  • Exemptions are included for workers who are 100% remote, those who perform their jobs exclusively outdoors, and those with certain medical conditions, disabilities, and religious affiliations that prevent vaccination

  • Exemptions do not apply to healthcare workers

  • Penalizations apply to companies for noncompliance, with fees that range from $13,653 per violation, up to $136,532 for a willful violation of the rules

Employers will have until January 4, 2022 to make sure that employees who are not fully vaccinated are tested on a weekly basis or within seven days before entering the workplace.

What Are the Next Steps for Employers?

To protect employees, the ETS is requiring included employers to implement their policies as it applies to their business. This includes enforcing a policy that allows unvaccinated employees to have weekly COVID-19 testing and requiring them to wear a facemask in the workplace. In the case that there is a positive COVID-19 test, the employee must promptly provide notice to the employer. That employee must be removed from the workplace regardless of vaccination status and must not return until they meet the proper criteria for returning. In order to carry out this process successfully, the ETS is giving employers 30 days to take the following steps:

  • Establish compliant policies on vaccination
  • Determine vaccination status of each employee

  • Acquire acceptable proof of vaccination that complies with the ETS

  • Give employees the information they need about policies and procedures

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly turned the modern American workplace upside down, and forced many people to alter their business plans. With Zoom meetings becoming the norm and the lines between work life and home life becoming more blurred, it is safe to say that the pandemic has made adaptation a necessity to running a business.

Businesses in the U.S. have had to make many adjustments. Although this rule will require some initial cooperation on behalf of both employers and employees, the objective is to protect workers and return the workplace to a greater sense of normalcy.

The goal of this initiative from OSHA is that approximately 23 million individuals become vaccinated. OSHA has estimated that the ETS will prevent over 6500 deaths and 250,000 hospitalizations. Employers who would like more information on the new policies or who need assistance with enforcement can visit www.osha.gov/coronavirus for additional information.