With flu season upon us, many employers are wondering whether they can require employees to get flu shots and what guidance is available. Below, we’ve compiled some answers to the most frequently asked questions, along with links to relevant resources from OSHA and the CDC.
Does OSHA require flu shots?
OSHA does not specifically require employees to get the flu shot. However, OSHA states that employers can mandate that their employees receive the vaccine.
Employers that require their employees to get a flu shot must consider reasonable accommodations when employees refuse to get vaccinated for medical reasons, like pregnancy or serious reactions to the vaccine, or based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
This is similar to OSHA’s most recent guidance on COVID-19 vaccines. Though not required, the agency “strongly encourages” vaccination of workers against both influenza and COVID-19.
How can employers encourage workers to get vaccinated?
Mandates are just one way employers can encourage workers to get vaccinated. OSHA recommends that employers consider hosting a flu vaccination clinic in their workplace. In addition, OSHA refers employers to the CDC’s tips for promoting vaccination in the workplace, which include:
- Allowing employees to take an hour or two to get vaccinated in the community
- Displaying posters with information on where employees can get vaccinated
- Sharing information about flu vaccines and where to get them in your company newsletter and other communications
- Sharing the flu vaccine finder website with employees
- Distributing information about flu vaccines for employees to take home
What controls can employers implement to protect workers and reduce flu transmission?
In addition to promoting vaccination, OSHA recommends that non-healthcare employers implement the following workplace controls:
- encouraging sick workers to stay home
- promoting hand hygiene and cough etiquette
- educating workers about the flu
- keeping the workplace clean
- addressing travel and illness while traveling
Healthcare employers will need to implement additional controls to protect workers who are at a high risk of infection in the workplace. These include engineering controls, work practice controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment (PPE).
What PPE do you need for influenza?
For non-healthcare workers, OSHA recommends basic hygiene precautions like handwashing and keeping high-touch surfaces clean, as well as avoiding close contact with sick people.
Healthcare workers whose job involves contact with patients, specimens, or contaminated materials need to take additional precautions, including the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
OSHA recommends wearing a surgical mask around suspected or confirmed flu patients. Additionally, during aerosol-generating procedures, workers should wear a fit tested N95 disposable respirator. Gloves, gowns, and eye protection are recommended for tasks that could cause contamination or create splashes. Employers are responsible for making sure that workers know the proper way to use and discard PPE.
As always, employers should consult OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov for the most up-to-date guidance.