While employers wrestle with their important role in helping the country turn the corner on the coronavirus pandemic, many are considering mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for their workforce. Although we highly recommend employers being proactive in aiding employees in receiving vaccinations, we must discourage a vaccination mandate.
When it comes to companies helping facilitate vaccinations for employees, there is an opportunity for these businesses to receive tax credits. But mandating vaccinations not only puts employers at the center of an emotionally charged debate on “freedom of choice,” but comes with many Occupational Safety and Hazards Act (OSHA) implications and unintended consequences.
COVID-19 Vaccine Reactions Might Be Recordable on Your OSHA 300 Logs
Employers in the US are subject to OSHA, which was officially formed on April 28, 1971, and is charged with caring for the health and safety of all employees in the workforce. OSHA recordkeeping requirements mandate employers record certain work-related injuries and illnesses on their OSHA 300 log. These logs must be posted for employees to see from February 1st to April 30th each year.
According to OSHA, if the employer requires an employee to get a COVID-19 vaccine, an adverse reaction to the vaccine must be recorded if it is:
- A new case, and
- Meets one of the general recording criteria as outlined by OSHA. (If it results in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond “first aid” or loss of consciousness.) OSHA provides a specific and complete definition of what constitutes “first aid” in 29 C.F.R. § 1904.7(b)(5)(ii).
Adverse reactions from “employer-recommended” COVID-19 vaccines do not require listing on the OSHA 300 log if they are truly voluntary. Therefore, you should ensure that you are not taking actions that may cause OSHA to conclude that you are requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Remember “Freedom of Choice”: An employee’s choice to accept or reject the vaccine cannot affect their performance rating or professional advancement. An employee who chooses not to receive the vaccine cannot suffer any repercussions from this choice.
Bottom line…encourage and educate, but make sure that it truly is a voluntary decision.
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