3 min read.Updated: 06 Nov 2021, 06:19 PM ISTJENNIFER CALFAS, The Wall Street Journal
OSHA says requirement for oversight is to ensure integrity of result; some companies worry it creates new logistical challenge
Workers won’t be allowed to both self-administer and self-report their Covid-19 tests to comply with new Biden administration requirements that mandate millions of employees get vaccinated or provide weekly test results.
Employees who opt for testing must be observed by their employer or an authorized telehealth proctor when self-administering the tests, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
“OSHA included the requirement for some type of independent confirmation of the test result to ensure the integrity of the test result," said a representative for the Labor Department, of which OSHA is a part.
The requirement is likely to create complications for both employees and employers, workplace specialists say. Some companies may choose to tell workers they are on their own to find and pay for a test that complies with the rules. That might force employees to get a laboratory test through a pharmacy chain on a weekend, for example, said Brian Kropp, research chief of the human-resources practice at Gartner Inc.
Other companies may decide, because of the tight labor market or other workplace considerations, that they will handle tests themselves, administering rapid tests under the supervision of a company employee or other representative.
“It does put a lot of burden on employees, or employers, depending upon how they choose to set it up," Mr. Kropp said.
An estimated 84 million workers at private-sector companies with at least 100 employees will be required as of Jan. 4, 2022, to meet the federal mandate, which the White House has said will get more people back to work and keep Americans from dying. The rules don’t apply to employees who work remotely, work exclusively outdoors or don’t report to a place of work where others are present.
Employers aren’t required to pay for Covid-19 tests, but some may do so because of potential collective bargaining agreements. Some state laws also may require employers to cover testing costs if they are considered a condition of employment, Mr. Kropp said. The decision to not allow self-administered tests is likely meant to prevent someone from cheating by saying they took a test when they didn’t, or to ensure an employee doesn’t falsify a test result, he said.
It could also help prevent accidental errors. Antigen tests, a type of Covid-19 test people can self-administer, have become more accessible across the U.S. Butadministering them at home can result in mistakes. The tests are faster than PCR tests, but also less sensitive.
Some employers say the new rules help evade the drama of creating their own mandates, which has drawn strong reactions from some workers. But others are worried about the logistical hurdles they are already seeing over Covid-19 testing.
Roslyn Stone, chief executive officer of Zero Hour Health, a health advisory firm, has been fielding calls from restaurant chains and other employers that worry about how to implement testing protocols for workers who refuse to get a vaccine.
Some companies told her they didn’t have offices where a worker could easily take a rapid test under the direction of a manager. A number of restaurant employees don’t own cars where they can wait outside until rapid-test results appear, Ms. Stone said. Some casual-dining restaurants have responded by having groups of unvaccinated employees come in for testing in small groups during off times.
Earlier this week, some clients saidthey planned for employees to pay for their own testing. Those companies have since reconsidered, Ms. Stone said.
“They’re already challenged with staffing," she said. “If the business across the street is paying for employee testing and you’re not, well there’s a way you’re going to lose that employee."
Businesses that don’t meet requirements could face penalties of up to around $13,600 per violation. OSHA also will conduct some workplace inspections and rely on worker complaints about potential violations.
The government’s testing rules may be difficult by design, workplace specialists say, and structured in a way that ultimately encourages employees to get vaccinated. Some people may decide that the burden and time of weekly testing is no longer worth it, Gartner’s Mr. Kropp said. “It’s really designed to get as many vaccinated as possible," he said.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text
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