As employers encourage or require employees to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine, they should be aware of OSHA recording obligations and potential workers’ compensation liability.
Though OSHA has yet to revise its COVID-19 guidance in response to the latest CDC recommendations, OSHA has revised its position regarding the recording of injury or illness resulting from the vaccine. Until now, OSHA required an employer to record an adverse reaction when the vaccine was required for employees and the injury or illness otherwise met the recording criteria (work-related, a new case, and meets one or more of the general recording criteria). OSHA has reversed course and announced that it will not require recording adverse reactions until at least May 2022, irrespective of whether the employer requires the vaccine as a condition of employment. In its revised COVID-19 FAQs, OSHA states:
Ohio workers’ compensation law, however, is not so clear. In 1934, the Ohio Supreme Court held in Spicer Mfg. Co. v. Tucker that an employee’s death resulting from a smallpox vaccination was covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The decision was based primarily upon the fact that the employer required the employee to obtain the vaccine as a condition of continued employment.
Ohio Industrial Commission decisions vary and do not provide a great deal of guidance to employers. However, careful implementation of a vaccine policy can substantially mitigate an employer’s workers’ compensation liability for adverse reactions.