What Employers Should Know About OSHA As Employees Return to The Office 

By Jaagriti Sharma
November 11, 2021

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, published a new temporary protocol when it comes to assisting in minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission between employees in the workplace. This ETS, published on November 5, 2021, comes on the heels of many employees reentering the workplace after mandates and procedures have been lifted or adjusted. While the ETS is a necessary protocol that employers must follow, many company owners are scrambling to understand the new ETS rules, what this will mean for their employees, and how they can implement these new provisions under a storm of varied employee opinions, morale, rules and regulations.

What is The ETS?

Occupational exposures to COVID-19 are leading to serious illness, hospitalization, and even death. Employees that are unvaccinated are at an even greater risk of contracting and transmitting the virus. OSHA has a responsibility to protect the safety and health of individuals in occupational settings. For this reason, the agency has taken many factors into account in order to revise and publish an ETS that will present requirements for employers that have 100 or more employees. This ETS will help to protect workers through guidelines, vaccination policies, testing, and collected information. 

This updated action plan is geared towards the positive results from implementing mandatory vaccination protocols. COVID-19 spreads primarily through unvaccinated individuals that are in close proximity to one another. Many workplaces, especially ones that are indoors and have poor ventilation systems, are the perfect spreading grounds for the virus. Vaccines for the virus are designed to be part of a multi-step plan in order to help stop the spread of the virus. COVID-19 protections in the workplace can help protect against serious illness, as well as death. 

A Brief Overview of the ETS 

Employers must follow the ETS in order to remain compliant with OSHA. These outlined rules are considered to be the minimum requirements that an employer should take to protect their workers from the transmission of COVID-19. 

  • Employers need to create and enforce a policy on vaccinations. 
  • Employers need to determine the vaccination status of every employee, as well as receive proof of vaccination. All statuses, as well as proof, should be well-maintained and recorded. 
  • Employers will need to ensure that COVID-19 testing is provided weekly to employees that are unvaccinated but are not required to pay for any associated costs for testing. 
  • Employers will need to have unvaccinated employees wear a face covering. 
  • Employers must report all hospitalizations and fatalities. 

Could The ETS Change? 

Yes. OSHA continuously monitors how COVID-19 is affecting the workplace. Any changes in the data surrounding COVID-19, such as the rate of infections or deaths, will be taken into account. OSHA may then consider updating the ETS in order to fulfill new requirements and better protect the health of employees. 

Effective Dates:

While the ETS goes into effect as soon as it is published, employers do have a grace period in order to comply with the new rules. All procedures outlined in the ETS must be followed and implemented within the workplace by employers by no later than January 10, 2022, unless the matter involves testing. If an employee has not received all doses of their vaccination, then they will need to be provided with testing by no later than February 9, 2022. The ETS has established these dates in order to protect employees from the dangers of COVID-19.  

What Does This Mean for Employees?

Employees will now have to comply with these new regulations. The guidelines of the new ETS will likely encourage many vaccinations. OSHA estimates that the ETS will result in 23 million new vaccinations. Employees will need to put their health and safety at the forefront when they are in the workplace and follow these required rules to protect themselves, as well as their coworkers. Employees, however, may become frustrated at the new regulation that requires weekly testing for unvaccinated individuals. Collecting employee feedback, reinforcing the importance of health and safety, and coming up with solutions to ease frustration can help you to help your employees.  

What Does This Mean for Employers? 

Employers should be encouraging the health and safety of all employees. Employers will need to gather information regarding an employee’s vaccination status and record of vaccination status. These vaccination statuses will need to be accurately recorded and be kept on file. This is because if the employee is not fully vaccinated, then that employee will need to be tested for the virus at least once weekly. These test results will also need to be accurately recorded and filed. Employees that are not vaccinated and are receiving weekly testing will still need to wear face coverings when they are inside or inside a vehicle that has another worker present, as per the ETS requirements. For employees that want more information on vaccinations, employers should direct them to, “Key Things to Know About COVID-19 Vaccines” published by the CDC.  

Employers, as well as employees, may be faced with retaliations to these rules. Employees, regardless of their vaccination status, may be subject to harassment or violence in relation to following the new protocols. Employers need to be prepared in order to better protect their employees.  

AllVoices is Helping Employees Have a Safer Workplace

It is imperative that employers follow these guidelines set forth by OSHA. Just a few noncompliant employees could spell out disaster for your company, as well as the health and safety of your employees. AllVoices, a user-friendly anonymous reporting tool, utilizes innovative technology to give employers a platform to view trends and data surrounding reports in the workplace. This encrypted tool allows employees to express their concerns over the new policies through the use of surveys and an always own reporting portal. Due to these new rules and regulations, some employees may face harassment or and discomfort around their vaccination status.

AllVoices puts the power into your hands to ensure that your employees have a safe and healthy working environment. Schedule a demo today to learn more about how AllVoices can help return to the office safely and under compliance.

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