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What is OSHA?
OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It’s an agency of the United States Department of Labor. OSHA’s mission is “to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
OSHA’s COVID Vaccine Mandate
Recently, OSHA announced that Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) with 100 or more employees must ensure their entire workforce is either fully vaccinated or will comply with weekly testing and mandatory mask regulations. The goal of the proposed mandate is to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect unvaccinated workers.
If mandated, ALEs must be in compliance with the new emergency temporary standard (ETS) regulations by January 4th, 2022. The implementation of these new mandatory vaccination requirements will directly affect about 84 million workers, especially the estimated 31 million who are unvaccinated.
However, as of November 17th, OSHA paused the vaccine mandate “after a federal appeals court upheld a stay.”
What Could This Mean for ALEs?
ALEs are businesses that have at least 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees. The new OSHA vaccine mandate would apply to all ALEs with over 100 employees.
If enforced, they have until January 4th to verify their workforce receives the Covid-19 vaccination. Keeping organized documentation to show proof of vaccine verification from the beginning can help create a more streamlined process once the new mandate takes effect. ALEs should keep vaccine cards and employee vaccine status secure.
Employers must implement processes to require employees to wear face masks and undergo weekly testing for employees who are unvaccinated. ALEs with over 100 employees have until December 5th to enforce the mask mandates in the workplace. These requirements are not applied to healthcare providers because they have separate OSHA requirements. The only two forms of exemption from the mandate include employees with medical or religious exemptions.
The new ETS requirement is not permanent. For now, the mandate will be in effect for six months, unless reevaluation of COVID-19 statistics result in an extension of the requirement.
Another important factor of the mandate is that ALEs must provide paid time off for employees to receive the vaccine by December 5th, and they must also pay for the sick time to recover from the vaccine. For now, employers do not require the booster shot or paid time off to receive the booster shot. They also do not need to pay for time off to get a COVID-19 test.
Any ALE reported to be incompliant to the new regulations will be investigated by OSHA. Fines from the agency can cost up to $13,653 per violation.
According to the OSHA mandate announcement, the set in place the following rules and regulations:
- Determine the vaccination status of each employee
- Obtain proof of vaccination status; maintain records
- Require employees to provide notice if they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis
- Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 weekly
- Ensure that non-vaccinated employees wear a face covering when indoors or occupying a vehicle with another person for work
How Does OSHA Determine if an ALE has 100 Employees?
OSHA will count all employees who work full time, part-time, from home, and seasonally towards the 100 employee threshold. The only workers who are not counted towards the threshold are independent contractors.
Any worker who works remotely without others around or completely outdoors do not have to follow the new ETS mandates.
If passed, the mandate deadline is approaching rapidly. ALEs with 100 or more employees need to make sure they are equipped to implement vaccine, testing, and mask requirements before facing an OSHA investigation. To continue preparing protocols, read our article on what to do in case an employee is exposed or tests positive for COVID-19 here.