OSHA issues guidance on when employers should record adverse vaccine reactions

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[co-author: Heather McAdams]*

On April 20, 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its FAQs with guidance stating that employers who require their employees to get vaccinated as a condition of employment may need to record employees’ adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine on OSHA work-related illness logs.

OSHA generally requires most employers to keep records of certain work-related injuries and illnesses in OSHA 300 and OSHA 300A forms. Employers must submit these logs to OSHA periodically and upon request.

The recent guidance on adverse vaccine reactions states that when employers require employers to be vaccinated, such adverse reactions are considered “work-related” for the purposes of OSHA recordkeeping requirements. Thus, employers who require employees to vaccinate must record any adverse vaccine reactions they learn the employee experienced if the reaction meets one of the standard criteria that triggers an obligation to record under 29 CFR 1904.7 (i.e., the employee: missed days away from work, required medical treatment beyond first aid, had his or her work restricted or was transferred to another job, experienced a loss of consciousness, or died).

Importantly, the guidance also clarifies that, at this time, OSHA is exercising its discretion not to require employers to record adverse vaccine reactions if the employer recommends but does not require vaccination. OSHA will consider the vaccine to be required if employees would suffer repercussions (such as affecting an employee’s performance rating or professional advancement) due to their choice to not receive the vaccine.

*Law Clerk, New York Office

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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