The Biden administration has recently announced a vaccine mandate that affects a majority of the American workforce. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is developing a rule that will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work. OSHA will be issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to implement this requirement in the coming weeks. This requirement will impact over 80 million workers in private sector businesses with 100 plus employees.
By directing OSHA to adopt a sweeping ETS requiring vaccination or testing, the administration has determined that the danger from unvaccinated workers is worth mandatory requirements to in an effort to protect all workers from COVID-19. Some states, employers, or trade associations may challenge the ETS in court on those grounds. In defending this ETS, OSHA is likely to cite the rising infection rates, particularly among unvaccinated persons; the high transmissibility of the Delta variant; and resistance to receiving the vaccine.
Who Does the Vaccine
The 100 employee condition for coverage of the ETS will apply on a company-wide basis, rather than on the number of employees at a particular site. OSHA also encourages smaller employers to follow CDC guidance, although it’s worth a note that individual franchises of larger parent companies are not included within this mandate. Vaccination will also be required for federal workers and contractors, as well as for 17 million health care workers in hospitals and other institutions that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding.
to Prepare Your Workplace
While the detailed requirements of the OSHA and state ETSs will not be immediately available, employers should already be considering how they will meet the ETS requirements once compliance becomes mandatory. Among some of the considerations employers should address are as follows:
- Whether or not the ETS applies to their workplaces based on size and ownership status.
- How to impose vaccine requirements with remote workers who bring your companies qualified employees to over 100. (It hasn’t yet been determined if this applies to remote workers).
- How to coordinate with onsite contractors about compliance, particularly those with fewer than 100 employees.
- How to identify vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, and how to update that information.
- How employees are to report the results of testing on a regular basis.
- What proof of vaccination your employees will need to provide.
- Whether to sponsor on-site vaccination clinics or testing for employees.
- Whether to supply test kits, and if so, how to obtain them; and if not, how to instruct employees about obtaining test kits.
- Whether to pay for test kits, and if so, how to do so and how many per employee.
- How to provide paid time off for vaccination and recovery for vaccinations.
- How to deal with employees who refuse both vaccination and testing.
- Implementing a record keeping system, which allows for constant updates for those employees who wish to go the routine testing route.
With You Every Step of the Way
The Biden administration has not specified the penalties for workplaces that ignore these requirements, as OSHA is yet to release an official ETS for this new mandate. Although judging by the rising fines in 2021, it’s best to start implementing a plan for compliance as soon as possible.
While preparing for these inevitable changes, reference Clarion Safety’s recent postings on OSHA’s August ETS update to help best prepare your workplace. If you are in need of outfitting your workplace with new COVID-19 specific signs and labels, browse our collections or contact us today!