Is an Adverse Reaction to the COVID-19 Vaccine an OSHA Recordable?

Just like everything else with the pandemic, we have more uncharted territory to travel. Another decision employers’ are considering- should I require employees to be COVID-19 vaccinated as a condition of employment or not? Should I recommend it or not? Most employers need to get back to running fully staffed, functional companies. Is the vaccine the answer? There may be repercussions from your decision that you haven’t thought of. Let’s look at what OSHA says (today) about COVID-19 vaccinations and the OSHA Record-Keeping Rule.

COVID-19 Vaccine Required

If the COVID-19 vaccine is required as a condition of employment and an employee has an adverse reaction, it is recordable on the OSHA 300 Log if certain criteria are met.  To be recordable, it must be work-related and a new case  It must also involve days away from work, or restricted work, or transfer to another job and medical treatment beyond first aid.

COVID-19 Vaccine Recommended

Adverse reactions to recommended COVID-19 vaccines are not recordable. Employers do not need to record adverse effects from COVID-19 vaccines that are recommended but are not required. Even if the vaccine is made available to employees at work or 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, it is not recordable. If it is a recommended vaccine, it is not considered work-related.

When is a recommended vaccine recordable? 

When is a recommended vaccine recordable?  When it is not truly voluntary.  Refusal to accept the vaccine cannot affect an employee’s performance rating or professional standing.  An employee cannot suffer hostile workplace repercussions from choosing not to be vaccinated.  If employees are not free to choose whether or not to receive the vaccine without fear of adverse action, then the vaccine is not  “recommended” but a condition of employment. An employee who chooses not to receive the vaccine cannot suffer any repercussions from this choice.

The opposite is also true.  If an employer offers an inducement that most employees would be hard-pressed to turn down, this may render the vaccine “a condition of employment”.  There’s a big difference between a $5 gift card and a $50 gift card.  One is a thank you, the other may be considered a bribe.

Besides being recordable, other OSHA regulations may come into play. For example, if an employee is hospitalized due to a COVID-19 vaccination, the employer must notify OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 24 hours (8 hours in California).

While  OSHA’s current position is that adverse effects from voluntary COVID-19 vaccinations are not recordable, the following statement is on their website, “OSHA is exercising its enforcement discretion to only require the recording of adverse effects to required vaccines at this time.”

For more information, contact Teddi Penewell, CSP, CIT at teddi@mrsoshsafety.com

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