Regardless of where you reside, there has been a lot of chatter about tracking vaccination status of late. The landscape is ever changing and it can be hard to tell how to deal with various regulations and compliance issues, best protect your employees while not driving people away, etc. Regardless of your take, the reality is that EHS professionals today need to be prepared with an agile strategy to comply with local and national regulations as they are rolled out. Let’s face it, these regulations and requirements are likely to continue to shift well into 2022.
For example, New York has required that all staff at hospitals and long-term care facilities be vaccinated by Monday, September 27. Plus, we’ve all been reading about the federal regulations for US Federal Contractors. Regardless of how you feel about it, you need to keep up with the possibility of needing to pivot…and fast.
How Are Businesses Keeping Up With These New Regulations?
The good news is that states and provinces are typically giving a reasonable warning before putting regulations in place. This is required due to the two-shot regime of the mRNA vaccines, and to ensure that employees & contractors/visitors are indeed fully protected.
Many businesses are also staying ahead of them by implementing vaccine rules before being forced to do so, whilst others are choosing to encourage the vaccine rather than require it. Nevertheless, if any level of enforcement is to take place (voluntary or mandated) it is vital to be able to effectively, efficiently and safely track the vaccination status of your employees and contractors/visitors.
If you have multiple locations, make sure your compliance process can handle the complexities of multiple governing jurisdictions. For example, what will you do if one state is requiring you to track vaccinations while another has forbidden you from doing so? You need to have a policy that is fair on all employees, and adhere to local best practices.
Staying up to date is a task for everyone, including EHS (Environmental Health & Safety), HR (Human Resources) and Legal who must be willing to check for incoming requirements that might affect your business. Preparing for a shift in requirements means working together to determine how you will enforce vaccination and how you will make it easy for your employees to get the shot(s), if they have not already.
What About Contractors?
At most businesses, contractors undergo heavy prequalification prior to a site visit to ensure that they are: properly insured, carry the appropriate training certificates for the task, demonstrate a strong historical track record of safety (OSHA logs), etc. However, the vaccine rule for Federal employees and contractors throws a new requirement into the mix. This sets a strong precedent for companies to introduce agile contractor tracking software, and you should do so if you have contractors mingling with your employees.
Not tracking contractors can defeat much of the point, especially if you have a lot of them. If you are a contractor, it's worth noting that you can use the vaccination status of your employees as a marketing point, potentially helping you get a valuable bid.
How Should You Ask For This Kind of Information?
First of all, each jurisdiction has different rules/regulations regarding vaccine mandates. That said, if your jurisdiction requires proof, as an employer you can ask whether the person (employee and often contractor) is vaccinated. However, if the person says no, it is not appropriate to ask them why not, as that might cause you to run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act. You should not ask for other information along with vaccine proof. Asking for a vaccination card or, in states which have one, a health pass is fine. So is asking for a note from the doctor that contains only that information.
Always be polite, sensitive and maintain confidentiality. You should not reveal an individual's vaccination status.
How Should You Keep Vaccine Information Secure?
It's vital that vaccine information is kept properly secure and that people understand that you have taken all possible precautions to protect this information. This is particularly important if you are asking for vaccination status from third parties.
You should not keep photos of vaccine cards on phones or other devices in an unencrypted form. Do not photocopy cards and keep them in paper files.
For employees, the information should be kept in the employee database, and the bare minimum of supporting information should be kept. Check state law too. For example, if you are in California or have workers in California, the California Consumer Privacy Act likely applies. This means you need to communicate to employees, contractors, and visitors how you will use and store the information.
Secure software solutions, such as Contractor Compliance, can greatly assist in keeping third party contractor information secure. Our software is designed from the ground up to store and protect all of your compliance-related information and to meet privacy regulations across multiple states.
Tracking vaccine status is complicated. In general, onsite contractors are likely be covered by the same vaccine requirement as employees. This is a complex process, and for many companies it is a good idea to get professional help with this, especially if you have a lot of contractors or are operating in multiple states.