The Energy Workforce and Technology Council’s HSE, HR and Government Affairs committees hosted a COVID-19 vaccine townhall this week to discuss the impacts of the OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) regarding a new mandatory vaccination policy that was released on November 5.
Participants from more than 75 companies joined the townhall to listen to a breakdown of the ETS, engage with legal experts on what to expect in the coming weeks and have an open discussion centered around industry best practices. This townhall was the second in a series of meetings to help develop and disseminate best practice recommendations.
The session opened with a broad overview of the ETS contents, which included:
· ALL aspects of the ETS (testing requirements, reporting, etc.) will begin enforcement on January 4, 2022.
o The first compliance deadline for employers to provide time off for workers to get inoculated and ensuring those who aren’t vaccinated are wearing masks is December 5.
· Vaccine mandate will apply to companies with more than 100 employees.
· Employers will be responsible for obtaining vaccine verification and maintaining records.
· If employee chooses not to be vaccinated, they must be tested weekly and be subjected to a mask mandate.
· Cost of weekly testing does not necessarily need to be covered by employers.
· Workers that work “exclusively outdoors” or remotely are exempt from the mandate. Employees that are exposed to other employees inside or customers are covered. (Clarification will be necessary on this aspect,)
· Employers not enforcing OSHA’s newest rule could be cited by the agency and face a fine of up to $13,653 for each serious violation.
o A willful violation, essentially an employer deliberately disregarding the mandate, could lead to a fine as high as $136,532.
The Council is in the process of forming a working group that will compile and submit industry comments for review by the Department of Labor during the ETS Comment Period, which ends on December 6. If you are interested in joining the working group, contact Director Government Affairs Maria Suarez.
Council Member Christian Antkowiak, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC, discussed the current legal status of the ETS and what to expect in the next few weeks. At least 27 states have begun legal proceedings against the ETS, and multiple circuit courts have received requests for the ETS to be contested. On November 6, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay of the requirement by OSHA. Regarding the ruling, Antkowiak recommended that each company should prepare to adhere to the ETS mandate, regardless of the progress of any legal challenges within their state.
“My recommendation would be prudent planning, looking at the template policies that OSHA has promulgated, and thinking about how you’re going to potentially roll this out, in the event that the temporary stay is upheld because that’s certainly a very possible outcome.”Christian Antkowiak, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney PC
Antkowiak then gave an update on the resources that are made available by OSHA for companies to begin compliance with the ETS. OSHA has confirmed it will provide all necessary documents and manpower to aid companies in their compliance efforts. These documents can be found here.
Member Companies also had an opportunity to engage in an open conversation about their company’s best practices regarding COVID-19 reporting protocols, led by HSE Committee Chair Gary Childress, Oil States Energy Services, and HR Committee Member Kelly Munson, DistributionNOW. Several topics examined included:
- Developing methods to facilitate company-wide testing of unvaccinated employees
- Developing a protocol to adequately keep a roster of employee COVID-19 vaccination status that is HIPAA compliant
- Capturing and properly documenting testing results of unvaccinated employees
- Methods of increasing the vaccination rates of employees in the field through monetary and PTO incentives
- Examining the cost of routine testing to the employer, and how to bulk purchase COVID-19 tests to drive down cost
- Methods of how to handle a vaccine requirement with new hires
For more information about the HSE Committee, contact Director Environmental & Technical Phillip DeBauche. To learn more about the Government Affairs Committee, contact Director Government Affairs Maria Suarez.
Phillip DeBauche, Director, Environmental and Technical, writes about the Council’s environmental and HSE efforts. Click here to subscribe to the Council’s newsletter, which highlights industry practices, workforce development, Council activities and more.