November 12, 2021

OSHA’s COVID-19 Rules: Your Questions Answered

By
Stephen Massey
Managing Director, Health Action Alliance

Experts offer details about who is covered by the rules, testing requirements, best practices for companies, and more.

OSHA’s new COVID-19 rules for employers of 100 or more workers remain on hold pending a legal challenge in federal court, but companies are wasting no time to prepare. 

We’ve received hundreds of questions from employers navigating the rules and getting themselves ready to comply. So, we brought in two top experts—David Michaels, former Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA (2009-2017) and a Senior Advisor to the Health Action Alliance; and Jeff Levin-Scherz, a physician and Population Health Leader for Willis Towers Watson—to answer as many of those questions as possible during a special briefing on Nov. 9.

If you weren’t able to join us live or need a refresher, we’ve provided ‘bookmarks’ in the links below to our experts’ responses to some of the top questions we received:










For even more real-time answers from the ‘lightning round’ portion of our town hall and the written Q&A, read on.

Quick Answers to Pressing Questions About OSHA’s COVID-19 Rules for Employers

WHO IS COVERED


If a company has a total of 100 workers, but spread over multiple sites, does the rule apply?

Yes.


If an employer has 90 people today, but grows to 100 after January, how long will they have to comply?

The employer will need to comply immediately upon hitting the 100 worker threshold. If their numbers go back down, the employer will need to maintain their compliance.


How are remote workers handled?

Fully remote workers count toward the 100-worker threshold but are otherwise not covered—unless they come into the workplace for any reason, in which case they must prove they are fully vaccinated or present a negative test no more than seven days in advance.


What about temporary workers?

They are covered for the time they work for you.


Staffing agency workers?

Only the staffing agency would count these workers for purposes of the 100-employee threshold. But both the host employer and staffing agency have roles in complying with workplace health and safety requirements. See https://www.osha.gov/temporaryworkers/ for more.


Are volunteers covered? Interns?

Volunteers are not covered. Interns are, if they are paid.


Employees who are minors?

Employees who are minors are covered under the rule. They may need parental consent to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.


TESTING



Do employers have to offer a testing option?

No. They can instead require all workers to show proof of vaccination.


Is the weekly testing deadline based on the date of the test or the date of the result?

Employees must provide their most recent COVID-19 test result no later than the seventh day following the date they last provided a test result. 


Can an employee self-administer a test AND self-certify that they tested negative?

No. The “honor system” is not acceptable.


Can an employee take an over-the-counter test in front of their employer in order to meet the testing requirement?

Yes.


Can employers specify the day of the week on which employees submit their test?

Yes, they can.


What are the requirements for an employee to return to work after testing positive?

See “Procedures in the Event of a Positive COVID-19 Test” in our Sample Vaccination Requirement Policy.



CONFIRMING VACCINATION STATUS



Can employers require vaccination only for new hires?

Yes. Current, unvaccinated, employees would have to test on a weekly basis.


Can employers ask an applicant their vaccination status?

No. But employers can state in the job posting that vaccination is required and can ask for vaccination status upon making a job offer and before a candidate’s first day of employment. 



OTHER QUESTIONS



How much paid time off do employers have to provide for recovery from vaccine side effects?

A “reasonable” amount of time, which an employer can cap. Generally, OSHA presumes that an employer would be in compliance by offering up to two days of paid sick leave per vaccination dose.


Is it just OSHA’s that’s on hold, or also the Center for Medicare Services mandate?

Just the OSHA rule.


Where can I learn more?

Visit OSHA’s collection of Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Temporary Standard.