OSHA Guidance on Adverse Reactions to COVID-19 Vaccines
By Kevin M. Mosher • Apr 23, 2021
COVID-19 vaccines are now available to adults in all 50 states. Yay! However, this news comes with some tough decisions for employers. Should we reopen our offices? Should we mandate employee vaccinations? How should we handle unvaccinated employees in the workplace? While we can’t make those decisions for you, we can offer you some helpful information to consider.
Today we’ll be discussing new guidance from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regarding adverse reactions to COVID-19 vaccines.
OSHA 300 Logs
OSHA requires certain employers to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illness using the OSHA 300 Log. If this doesn’t sound familiar to you, it could be because your company falls within a class of employers that are partially exempt from the recordkeeping requirements, including employers with ten or fewer employees during the previous calendar year and establishments in certain low-hazard industries (you can view the list here).
Generally, federal regulations require that injuries and illness be recorded when they result in death, days away from work, restricted work or transfer to another job, medical treatment beyond first aid, loss of consciousness, or a significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed health care professional.
OSHA 300 Logs and COVID-19 Vaccines
You’re probably wondering what the OSHA 300 Logs have to do with COVID-19 vaccines. Well, an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine may be a recordable injury or illness if it is work-related, a new case, and meets one of the criteria for recording listed above.
Work-Related COVID-19 Vaccine Injuries
Employers that require employees to be vaccinated as a condition of employment must record an adverse reaction to the vaccine that otherwise meets the recording criteria.
The recording requirement isn’t as straightforward when employers merely “encourage” or “recommend” that employees receive the vaccine. If the decision to receive the vaccine is truly voluntary, then no recording requirement applies in the event of an adverse reaction.
However, if the employee’s decision to receive the vaccine has any impact on their employment, such as a performance rating or opportunity for professional advancement, then the decision is not completely voluntary. Basically, if an employee will face any repercussions based on their decision to receive the vaccine or not, it’s not voluntary, and any adverse reaction experienced is work-related. That said, simply making the vaccine available at work, providing information on vaccination sites, or arranging for interested employees to receive the vaccine does not impact the voluntariness inquiry.
Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.