transforming risk into opportunity
June 29, 2021
Aspen’s Position Relating to OSHA and Other State Guidelines on Vaccinations and Masks
Steve Thompson, ARM, COSS, Senior Vice President, Risk and Safety Services of Aspen, a TRISTAR Company

On May 18, 2021, OSHA provided new COVID-19 guidelines for the workplace.  In addition, multiple states have drafted similar guidance or regulatory changes.  Essentially, employers have two basic options:  1) maintain full masking rules for all employees, or 2) allow vaccinated employees to go mask-less.  If an employer chooses option 2, there are additional mandates, including:

 

  • Vaccinated employees must submit proof or self-attestation of vaccination status.  Unvaccinated employees must provide religious or medical exemptions.  Records must be maintained in strict confidentiality.

 

  • In California, when unvaccinated staff (masked) work alongside vaccinated staff (un-masked) in shared work environments, employers must have available approved respirators (for voluntary use) for unvaccinated employees.

 

Based on these guidelines and the new regulations, it is our belief and position that the best option for our clients is option 1 to continue the use of face coverings in shared workplaces.  We have chosen this approach because it is proven to be the safest option and maintains equal respect for everyone regardless of their vaccination status, medical conditions, or religious beliefs. 

 

From a risk management perspective, actions to "separate" employees (vaccinated from unvaccinated) will quickly destroy a safe culture and may even cause a breakdown in employee relations.  Segregating healthy employees also goes against fundamental workplace safety principles.  When clients ask us why we support "option 1," our response is that: safety policies are designed to protect all employees and not to singularize one group of employees over another.  (As an FYI, we know that vaccinated people can still get sick, and it is the organization's responsibility to prevent injuries and illnesses, regardless of the severity.  It is also a fundamental tenet of OSHA). 

 

Many of our clients have presented various COVID scenarios, such as the following: "All of our employees are vaccinated …"  or "We use badges to discern between those who are vaccinated and those who are not vaccinated …" or "Vaccinated people should be rewarded for getting the vaccine — they should have the right to work without their masks …" or "One of our employees has a medical condition and can't get vaccinated …" or that "One vaccinated employee is complaining that an unvaccinated employee is "lying" about being vaccinated so that person doesn't have to wear a mask …".  Finally, "Our labor law attorneys say we can provide different privileges for vaccinated versus unvaccinated people — why are you recommending something different?"  By choosing "option 1," these issues are avoided.

 

If you have questions or client concerns, feel free to reach out to the Aspen team at aspenteam@aspenrmg.com.  There will be additional developments from OSHA and various state programs, so feel free to join us for the upcoming Webinar:

 

What Employers Need to Know About Cal/OSHA's New Emergency Standard

 

On June 17, 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an Executive Order allowing for the amended emergency standard to become immediately effective. Employers in California now face new COVID-19 workplace safety obligations, which include:

 

• Vaccination and face-covering rules

• Respirators (N95s) for voluntary use

• Rules for exposures and testing

• Citations and implications

• Documentation and reporting

 

You can also view our recorded Webinar regarding this topic by signing up here:   https://register.gotowebinar.com/recording/2547011405335074831

 

 

 

 

 
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