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Recordability and the COVID-19 vaccine

OSHA clarifies what's recordable

Posted April 30, 2021

Employers have many questions surrounding work and the COVID-19 vaccine: “Should we require all workers to get the vaccine?” “Should we recommend they get the vaccine?” “Should we provide the vaccines at the workplace?”

All those questions lead safety professionals to another question: “Will we have to record adverse reactions to the vaccine?”

OSHA recently provided clarification on how workers are to handle vaccine-related adverse reactions. The short answer is: Employers only have to record adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine if they required the employee to get the vaccine (and the adverse reaction meets the general recording criteria, e.g., medical treatment beyond first aid, lost worktime, etc.).

Recommended or provided, but not required

Although adverse reactions to recommended COVID-19 vaccines may be recordable under the recordkeeping requirements, OSHA is exercising its enforcement discretion to only require the recording of adverse effects to required vaccines at this time. Therefore, employers do not need to record adverse effects from COVID-19 vaccines that they recommend, but do not require.

The same holds true for a variety of scenarios where employers recommend, but do not require vaccines, including where the employer makes the COVID-19 vaccine available to employees at work, where the employer makes arrangements for employees to receive the vaccine at an offsite location (e.g., pharmacy, hospital, local health department, etc.), and where the employer offers the vaccine as part of a voluntary health and wellness program at the workplace.

Note that for this enforcement discretion to apply, OSHA says the vaccine must be truly voluntary. For example, an employee’s choice to accept or reject the vaccine cannot affect their performance rating or professional advancement. An employee who chooses not to receive the vaccine cannot suffer any repercussions from this choice. If employees are not free to choose whether or not to receive the vaccine without fearing adverse action, then the vaccine is not merely “recommended” and employers should consult OSHA’s FAQ regarding COVID-19 vaccines that are a condition of employment.

This article was written by Travis Rhoden of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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