OSHA Weighs in on Employers’ Vaccine Practices

Frank Ferreri

Washington, DC (WorkersCompensation.com) – As the country looks to emerge from the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has stepped up its COVID-19 program in recent weeks, starting with an emergency temporary standard issued in mid-June followed by inspection procedures about two weeks later.

With the Biden administration touting widespread vaccination as the way to defeat the virus and hold back the Delta variant, it’s not surprising that the inspection procedures – which OSHA doled out in a 67-page document – cover vaccinations and employers’ approaches to them.

The following chart highlights the standards under which OSHA’s inspectors will be operating when it comes to vaccinations at workplaces.


OSHA Guidance

Employee vaccinations Under 29 CFR 1910.502(m), employers must support COVID-19 vaccination for all employees through reasonable time off during work hours and paid leave for the full vaccination series and any side effects experienced following vaccination.

OSHA presumes that if an employer makes available up to four hours of paid leave for each dose of the vaccine and up to 16 additional hours of leave for any side effects of the doses (or eight hours per dose), the employer would meet the requirement.

Employers may be able to provide “much less” than four hours if employees don’t need to travel for vaccinations, as is the case if they are provided onsite.

Reasonable time off Reasonable time off may include, but would not be limited to, time spent during work hours related to vaccination appoints, such as registering, completing required paperwork, all time spent at the vaccination site, and time spent traveling to and from the location for vaccination.

Reasonable time also may include situations in which an employee working remotely or in alternate location must travel to the workplace to receive the vaccine.

Reimbursement Employers aren’t obligated to reimburse employees for transportation costs incurred to receive the vaccination, such as the costs of travel to an off-site vaccination location, or travel from an alternate work location to the workplace to receive a vaccination dose.
Vaccinations outside of work hours If an employee chooses to receive the vaccine outside of work hours, employers aren’t required to grant time and paid leave for the time that the employee spent receiving during nonwork hours. However, employers must still afford them reasonable time and paid leave to recover from side effects that they experience during scheduled work time.
Employees declining vaccinations Employees may decline vaccination for reasons that included underlying medical conditions or conscience-based objections. There is no requirement that employees who decline the vaccination to sign a declination form.
Inspection points OSHA advises its compliance safety and health officers to determine through interviews and document review that employers support vaccination efforts by providing reasonable time off and paid leave. The agency directs CSHOs to determine through interviews whether the employer actively discourages or hinders employees from getting vaccinated.

CSHOs must also determine when vaccination or travel for vaccination took place to confirm whether the activities took place during work hours.

Going beyond OSHA standards Nothing in the OSHA emergency temporary standard precludes an employer from taking steps beyond the requirements of the standard to encourage employees to get vaccinated, as appropriate under applicable laws or labor management contracts. Employers who choose to do so must follow Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance.

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