Town Hall & OSHA Update 2.2.2021
On February 2, MEA hosted a Town Hall with our in-house attorney and OSHA representative to share upcoming information about OSHA and the COVID-19 virus.
Vaccine Policy: Yes or No?
Many members have inquired about the necessity of a vaccine policy written into policies and procedures. There are two ways to do this if your organization is considering it:
- 1- Mandatory Vaccine policy, requiring all employees to vaccinate unless they present proof of medical or religious exemption; or
- 2- Voluntary Vaccine policy, oftentimes attached with an “encouragement aspect”- including bonuses, additional paid time off, etc.
MEA can advise your organization of how to write your policies and procedures to include these new updated policies; remember that it is your right as an employer to ask for proof of vaccination, but that is the ONLY question that the employer is permitted to ask.
If the employee says that they did not receive the vaccination, no follow-up questions should be asked, as additional healthcare information may be disclosed at that time.
Having the policy written and widely known to employees is important to set expectations and understanding of the policy for both managers and Human Resources to reference, as needed.
Upcoming Biden Administration Expectations
While still early on in the Biden administration, we do have an foreseeable horizon on what to expect regarding COVID-19 compliance:
- Greater focus on employer & employee rights and safety
- Renewed focus on enforcement of COVID-19 safety expectations
- Transparency regarding OSHA fines and citations
- Greater coordination between agencies
- Focus on multi-lingual communications to ensure that all employees understand the policies
Additional OSHA updates include:
- Updated Temporary Emergency Safety Standard expected March 15
- Reviewed enforcement efforts with increasing complaints
- Protection for worker complaints/retaliation
- COVID-19 As a recordable illness
Pandemic Safety Plan working to:
- Reduce workplace transmission with PPE, masks and social distancing
- Disinfecting & cleaning protocols
- Case management
- Compliance & up to date recordkeeping
- Education & communication
- Stagger breaks and lunches to encourage distancing
OSHA recommends conducting a hazard assessment to ensure control measures to limit spread; adopt policies for employee absences that do not punish workers; all policies in multi-lingual format; and implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19 protocol concerns.