More than 40 OFS companies discussed health, safety and HR issues raised by the pandemic during a packed HSEQ/HR virtual townhall on January 28.
During the meeting, Council Advisory Board Member and HR Committee Chair Bonnie Houston, NOV, and Health & Safety Committee Chair Gary Childress, Oil States Energy Services, moderated conversation that centered on how companies are handling COVID-19 vaccinations and virus protocols with the pandemic still roaring through America.
Few companies are planning to offer onsite vaccinations but will provide employees with information on where to get them. Some that already provide flu vaccines are discussing the possibility with leadership teams but won’t be able to decide until more is known about availability and what medical officials are planning for distribution in their areas.
Companies expect some challenges managing around a customer requiring proof of vaccination when there’s an employee who refuses to be vaccinated for medical, religious or personal reasons. Some participants said it would not affect the individual’s employment as long as the employee could be accommodated at another site, and they could replace that individual with another employee.
Others anticipate a firmer approach.
“With the recent EEOC determination that, for the most part, employers can make vaccinations a mandatory requirement for employees, it is presumed this can be considered a terminable offense,” said one company representative. “If the employee is able to provide adequate documentation that meets the statutory definition for exclusion, we would need to explore other options further.”
Even after vaccination, companies intend to remain cautious with those who have had close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
“Even if someone is vaccinated, they could potentially still be a carrier and infect someone who is not yet vaccinated,” said one participant.
Most companies say they’ll follow CDC guidelines and require self-quarantine for close contacts, even if the employee has been vaccinated.
The vaccinate rollout hasn’t caused an acceleration of return-to-work plans.
“We’re watching closely and expect it will play a role later,” said one company representative. “We’re still under voluntary return-to-work in offices with shops fully functional.”
HR departments are ready to provide workers with proof of employment letters and other documentation for when jurisdictions reach Phase 1C (all essential workers) of vaccine distribution. In most cases, companies are waiting for guidance on the exact information government agencies will require.
Currently, oil and gas companies are not requiring proof of vaccination at job sites. HR personnel don’t anticipate such requirements, at least until there’s greater vaccine availability later in the year.
CDC has designed a COVID-19 Vaccination Communication Toolkit for Essential Workers to help employers build confidence in the vaccine. The toolkit will help employers across various industries educate their workforce about COVID-19 vaccines, raise awareness about the benefits of vaccination, and address common questions and concerns.
The toolkit contains a variety of resources including:
- Key messages
- Educational slide deck
- Plain language vaccine fact sheet (available in several different languages)
- Template letter for employees
- Social media and newsletter content
- Vaccination sticker templates.
For more information or to get involved with the HR Committee or the Health & Safety Committee, please contact Senior Director Membership Services Peggy Helfert.