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OSHA's New Vaccine Mandate: FAQs for Employers

Breaking down the most common questions from OSHA's new vaccine mandate, what it means for employers, and how to manage.

The new OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) has been released. Here are some initial answers to the most common questions. 

Note, this is not intended as legal advice - please consult your legal team before making any decisions or policies based on this information.

Which companies does this apply to? 

The new OSHA ETS covers any employer with over 100 employees - there are some complicated rules about who counts as an employee, and who’s covered by this ruling. We’ll discuss in more detail in our webinar tomorrow with our legal experts from Messner Reeves. 

What does the ETS say about vaccination? 

All employees must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.  Any employees who aren’t fully vaccinated must wear masks indoors at all times by Dec. 5, 2021 and starting January 4th, must be tested weekly. 

Can we organize on-site vaccination clinics?

Yes, but it will be a challenge to organize an on-site clinic in time for the deadlines outlined here, especially in flu shot season, when pharmacy and clinic nurses are often already booked. The largest on-site providers are major pharmacy chains, which often have high minimums, so this may not be cost effective for employers with multiple smaller locations. One good option is to reach out to local health departments and ask if they can help set up vaccination clinics. They tend to have access to supply and are looking for good ways to engage in the community. 

Do employees need to be a full 14 days out from their final dose to be considered vaccinated by OSHA? 

Yes, employees aren’t considered fully vaccinated until 14 days after their final dose (dose 2 for Pfizer and Moderna, the one and only dose for J&J). Any partially vaccinated employees must share their vaccination status and proof with the employer, who has to keep that on file and keep a record of their partially vaccinated status. 

What are the testing requirements? 

All unvaccinated employees will need to be tested weekly, or within 7 days before they work. Both PCR and rapid tests are accepted, but at-home over-the-counter tests must be supervised - this means at-home rapids won’t be accepted. Instead, the employee would need to take the test supervised by a manager. 

What does supervised collection entail for rapid tests?

Employers can validate at-home rapid tests through the use of a proctored test that’s supervised by an authorized telehealth provider, or they can proctor the OTC test themselves. Generally, we assume it would be store-level managers proctoring the tests. 

Where can we get tests if we want to provide them?

Test kits are sporadically available, and we expect there might be a run on rapid tests after today. We’re still waiting to see if there’s any info about discounted tests negotiated by the federal government. If you’re interested, we recommend checking in with your first aid supplier who may have some available tests. Amazon, Target, and Walmart also have available rapid tests at the moment, as do some manufacturers and medical suppliers.

What kind of tests should we get if we want to provide them ourselves?

Generally, we recommend whatever brand you can get your hands on in the quantity you need. If possible, you want a larger supply to do the same test weekly, so employees only need to be trained once on how to use them. Minimally, your test must be approved for emergency use by the FDA - finding the amount needed is another story. If you do have a choice between a few options, look for ones that have the shortest processing time (some are as quick as 10 minutes, others as long as 30). You’ll also want to find one with good instructions that are easy to follow - some are so complicated that we’ve helped our clients type up clearer instructions to send out with the tests. Ultimately, your ability to get your hands on enough tests at a reasonable price is the deciding factor most people will rely on.

Where can we send employees if we don’t provide tests ourselves? 

Both PCR and rapid testing is generally free at local clinics, pharmacies, and other locations in the community, but it remains to be seen if they’ll be subject to supply issues once weekly testing starts in January. Major national pharmacies may be a good option, but convenience is key, so checking for local test sites at each location and choosing the easiest for employees is likely the best bet. 

Are people who recently had COVID exempt?

Yes, unvaccinated people who have tested positive for COVID are exempt for 90 days from the date of their positive test or diagnosis. After 90 days, they’ll need weekly testing again.  

How can we keep track of negative COVID tests?

Zero Hour Health can help with tracking employee vaccination status, allowing employees to upload proof of vaccination, and tracking weekly test status for those who are unvaccinated. 

What do we do when an employee tests positive? 

When an employee tests positive, they must be sent home from work immediately and employers should follow their current contact tracing procedures. 

What info do employers need to share with OSHA?

Employers are required to provide OSHA with an aggregate number of fully vaccinated employees and total employees within 4 hours of any request. They’re also required to provide employees with the same information by the end of the next business day.

What are the deadlines for compliance? 

By Jan. 4th, companies need to begin weekly tests for unvaccinated employees.  By Dec. 5th, companies need to:

  • Establish a vaccination policy
  • Determine each employee’s vaccination status, get proof, and keep a record of who is and who isn’t vaccinated
  • Require face masks for all unvaccinated employees
  • Provide info about the ETS and workplace policies to employees, in a language and literacy level that’s easy for the employee to understand 

How can ZHH help? 

ZHH can help with vaccine and testing tracking - our clients are using this daily to keep track of who’s vaccinated, who’s not, and to track weekly tests for those who aren’t vaccinated. 

Click here to schedule a demo today.

We’re breaking down the OSHA ETS live tomorrow @ 3pm

Join us Friday at 3pm ET (12pm PT) for our Flash Briefing to discuss the new OSHA ETS, how it’s going to affect your operations, what might become permanent law, and much much more. We’ll have the ZHH leadership team alongside Allison Dodd, partner with Messner Reeves, LLC, diving into all the details.

Register now! 

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Disclaimer: This post is meant for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute, and is not intended as, any form of medical, legal or regulatory advice or a recommendation or suggestion regarding the same.  No recipient of this information should act or refrain from acting on the basis of this information without first seeking legal advice from counsel in the relevant jurisdiction.