mask at work social distancing

OSHA recently updated its COVID-19 safety guidance to recommend that employees who have been vaccinated should continue wearing face masks, practice social distancing and comply with any other COVID-19 safety protocols while on the job.

That means that the same workplace protocols that apply to unvaccinated employees will apply to those who have received their vaccines for as long as the pandemic continues, OSHA notes in an update to its COVID-19 workplace safety page.

The only difference is that if a vaccinated employee is exposed to COVID-19 they are not required to quarantine, but they do have to meet the following criteria:

  • The employee is fully vaccinated. That’s defined as after two weeks have passed since their second dose of a two-dose vaccine like Pfizer’s and Moderna’s, or after receiving a single-dose vaccine like Johnson & Johnson’s.
  • The exposure occurred within three months following receipt of the last dose in the series; and
  • The worker has had no symptoms since being exposed.

“Workers who are vaccinated must continue to follow protective measures, such as wearing a face covering and remaining physically distant, because at this time, there is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from person-to-person,” OSHA writes on its website.

It added that the Centers for Disease Control has said that more needs to be understood about how the vaccines work and whether people who have been vaccinated can spread the disease to others. So far, studies on this issue have been inconclusive.

OSHA further states that the COVID-19 safety protocols should be kept in place until the pandemic has reached its end and after positive guidance from the CDC.

Providing vaccines to your workers

OSHA also recommends following CDC guidelines and making the COVID-19 vaccine available at no cost to all eligible employees. Employers can be instrumental in getting their workers vaccinated by providing information and training on the efficacy and safety of vaccines.

While there are some legal issues concerning employers requiring staff to get vaccinated, the CDC does recommend that employers consider offering free, on-site COVID-19 vaccination at their business locations.

But if you are considering going this route, it’s best to first contact your state’s health department to receive guidance on how to make it happen.

For businesses that can’t offer vaccinations on-site, employers should encourage their workers to seek COVID-19 vaccination in their community and provide them with information about where they can get a vaccine. The CDC advises:

  • Being flexible in your human resources policies. Establish policies that allow employees to take paid leave to seek COVID-19 vaccination in the community. Support transportation to off-site vaccination clinics.
  • Using promotional posters and flyers to advertise locations offering COVID-19 vaccination in the community. Display posters about COVID-19 vaccination in break rooms, cafeterias and other high-traffic areas.
  • Post articles in company communications (e.g., newsletters, intranet, e-mails, portals) about the importance of COVID-19 vaccination and where to get the vaccine in the community.
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