HR has gone through enough over the last two years trying to maintain the well-being of their employees. With President Biden’s proposed OSHA mandate, HR will have to put in even more work to stay compliant.
FAQ About OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard
OSHA is issuing an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that aims to protect employees as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. The key takeaway from this push is that employees will have to adhere to — 1) weekly COVID-19 tests or 2) be fully vaccinated.
The ETS is currently tied up in court so nothing has been made official yet. These are some of the most frequently asked questions about the order and how they relate to HR professionals.
Who Does it Apply To?
Any business with 100+ employees is required to follow the order, but OSHA will allow certain medical or religious exemptions.
Within those specified organizations, not every employee is required to follow the testing or vaccination mandate. Employees that do not enter the workplace are exempt from the ruling. In other words, remote workers or employees that work outdoors are not required to follow the ETS.
What Are the Penalties for Noncompliance?
Businesses that fail to comply with this rule will face hefty fines. On the first violation, businesses may be fined up to $13,653 and $136,532 for repeated offenses.
When Does it Go into Effect?
The dates proposed by the ETS are quickly approaching. Because it has not gone into effect yet, you can expect that these dates will be pushed back.
- December 5, 2021: Unvaccinated employees must wear masks indoors.
- January 4, 2022: Employees who wish to be vaccinated must submit a record of vaccination.
- January 4, 2022: Unvaccinated employees must start submitting weekly negative COVID tests.
If the mandate does go into effect after these dates have passed, the new dates will likely follow a similar pattern.
How HR Can Prepare
Even though the rule has not passed yet, HR should act like it has. It is far better to overprepare than underprepare when the consequences are this extreme. If it suddenly passes, you don’t want to have to scramble to be ready at a moment’s notice.
Here are some simple ways that HR can prepare.
Be Empathetic to the Situation at Hand
Emotions are heightened as vaccines have become an extremely polarizing topic. There are strong feelings on both sides, so you should go about it with empathy and understanding.
Help your employees understand that this new ruling is just one more standard added to the list for workplace safety. Give your employees a safe place to express their concerns where they can be heard.
Create a Vaccine/Testing Policy
As you’re preparing for the changes you’ll implement, create a policy that answers any questions your employees may have. Some of the questions you may want to include in your policy are:
- When will you require vaccination status?
- Where can employees get vaccinated/tested?
- Will you reimburse employees for costs associated with testing?
You may want to send out a survey where employees have the opportunity to submit their questions. Giving your employees a platform to express themselves might put some of their concerns to rest.
Use Technology to Streamline the Oncoming Paperwork
Your job as an HR professional is likely already packed with work from onboarding to performance management. How will you add in the time-consuming work of managing the vaccine, testing, and exemption documentation? Technology will be key to being ready for the ETS.
Distribute Your Vaccine/Testing Policy
Once you’ve created your policy, you’ll need to distribute it to your employees. That’s easy enough to do through email, but there’s no easy way to track that every employee has read and understands the policy.
That’s where document management comes into play. With the right system, you’ll be able to distribute the policy, request signatures and/or acknowledgement it’s been reviewed from every employee, and see who has yet to turn in their signed policy in seconds.
Create a Portal for Employees to Securely Upload Their Documentation
If your business falls under those required to follow the ETS, you’ll have to collect at least one document from every employee, sometimes many.
Picture this. Instead of being bombarded with hundreds of emails containing vaccination or testing documents, you can request the information directly within your document management software. And watch it file itself accordingly.
Keep Documentation Ready to Report
You never know when you’ll need to present proof of your organization’s adherence to the ETS. With the right technology, you won’t have to think twice about it.
Your document management system will allow you to share your documents securely with anyone inside or outside the organization. You can have accessible and secure files for once.
Technology is here to take some of the stress away from the upcoming changes. Discover Rubex by eFileCabinet so you don’t get stuck doing the heavy lifting.