What to know about OSHA’s emergency temporary standard on COVID-19 vaccination

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety Health Administration, OSHA, on Thursday released an emergency temporary standard, called an ETS, stating that employers must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose to either be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.

Effective immediately, the ETS covers employers with 100 or more employees — firm or company-wide — and provides options for compliance. The ETS also requires employers to provide paid time to workers to get vaccinated and to allow for paid leave to recover from any side effects.

The ETS also requires employers to:

  • determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status;
  • require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis (employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria);
  • ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within seven days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer); and
  • ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.

The ETS does not require employers to pay for testing, however, employers may be required to pay for testing to comply with other laws, regulations, collective bargaining agreements or other collectively negotiated agreements. Employers are also not required to pay for face coverings, according to OSHA.

It should be noted that the ETS does not apply to employees who do not report to their workplace where co-workers or customers are present, employees working from home or employees who only work outdoors. However, these employees must be included in the total count of employees to meet the 100-employee threshold under the ETS. 

The ETS is effective immediately upon its publication in the Federal Register (today). Employers must comply with most requirements within 30 days of publication and with testing requirements within 60 days of publication.

OSHA stated that it will continue to monitor the status of COVID-19 infections and deaths, as the number of vaccinated people in workplaces and the general public increases and the pandemic evolves. Further, OSHA will update the ETS should it find “a grave danger no longer exists” for the covered workforce or new information indicates a change in measures is needed.

Additional information and resources regarding the ETS can be accessed on the OSHA website. Insight on what the vaccine standard means for your credit union is available on the New York’s State of Mind blog, written by Henry Meier, the New York Credit Union Association’s SVP and general counsel. Credit unions with questions about the ETS can be directed to Chris Pajak, the Association’s VP of member engagement at 1 (800) 342-9835 ext. 8188 or via email at christopher.pajak@nycua.org.

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