New look on OSHA Guidance for COVID-19 Vaccination Side Effects and OSHA’s 29 CFR 1904’s Recording Requirements

By James Hinton
Director, EHS&Q

In the early stages of the vaccination process many employers were not wanting to mandate or participate in vaccinations of employees after hearing of people getting sick or ill after receiving a vaccination. OSHA’s initial response to employees having negative reactions, getting sick or missing work was very detrimental to most employer’s decision not to participate as the initial OSHA response was that anyone who had side effects from a vaccination mandated at work or given at the workplace would require reporting under 29 CFR 1904’s recording requirements. This along with General Council advice to not participate or mandate vaccinations did have some effect on workplace vaccination mandates and participation from some larger employers nationwide. 

Luckily OSHA realized this was a serious concern for most employers and in May OSHA replaced the stance with a new release stating “OSHA will not enforce 29 CFR 1904’s recording requirements to require any employers to record worker side effects from COVID-19 vaccination through May 2022”. This new stance should open more companies to consider mandating and participating in worksite vaccination efforts, as companies do not have to fear OSHA recordables and reporting requirements for these types of situations. Although many General Councils are still not in full support of worksite vaccination efforts as there may still be some liabilities to work out, at this point, at least, OSHA will not have a negative impact on worksite vaccination efforts unintentionally.

As we continue to move through this pandemic and continue to learn how to safely protect our employees and the public, I think the safety industry and OSHA will learn a lot from all this. From the start of the pandemic there have been many different learning curbs from how to protect workers to handling vaccinations and this is just another one we were able to overcome. The position of the Safety Professional is ever changing and growing and I think with this pandemic we will see a different approach to safety moving forward with a larger amount of participation and new and interesting ways to achieve the end goal of keeping everyone safe!