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Understanding the Implications of the OSHA COVID-19 Mandate

Caroline Savello

masked employees in the office

On November 4, 2021, the Biden administration, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued their COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for businesses with more than 100 employees. 

Color’s legal, compliance, and commercial teams have combed through this 470 page document to understand what it means for businesses. Here’s our summary of what we learned, as well as some high-level recommendations for how businesses can prepare to comply before the January 4th deadline. 


A second rule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires some 17 million health care workers to be vaccinated by the same deadline, January 4, with even more stringent requirements. We will cover this in a separate blog post.


High level findings: 

  • This mandate applies to all organizations with 100 or more employees
  • Organizations can face fines of up to $13,653 for each violation of the ETS
  • Employees must be vaccinated by January 4th, 2022
  • Unvaccinated employees need to produce a negative test result each week, starting after Jan. 4
  • Employers must collect and keep vaccination status records of all employees 
  • Employers must be able to produce test result records for all employees at the request of OSHA
  • Tests can be lab-based or rapid, but cannot be self-administered AND self-reported
  • Lab-based unmonitored tests are acceptable because a lab reports the result 
  • Monitored rapid tests (monitored by the employer or authorized telehealth proctor) are acceptable because the result is reported by the proctor
  • Employers are responsible for ensuring employees notify their employer of a positive COVID-19 test result, and for ensuring the employee is removed from the workplace and remains out until approved to return
  • Employers must report work-related COVID-19 fatalities to OSHA within 8 hours of learning about them, and work-related COVID-19 in-patient hospitalizations within 24 hours of learning about them


Color recommendations for compliance

Speed is of the essence 

Realistically, organizations have about 5 working weeks between now (Nov 5th) and Jan 4th to develop and activate their plans. While many large organizations have used the last few weeks to develop multiple alternative frameworks, others adopted a “wait and see” approach. Whatever your approach up to now, it’s essential that you scope your needs and gain internal alignment within the next few weeks to meet the OSHA deadline.

When it comes to rolling out testing and vaccination solutions, Color has a proven track record of helping large organizations quickly meet their goals. We routinely go from contracting to pilot in a few weeks, with full enterprise rollout shortly thereafter.

Don’t let testing kit availability become your barrier to compliance

The ETS provides very clear guidelines on which types of tests are acceptable and which are not. We anticipate this may create supply shortages for some specific types of tests. The good news is, lab based testing is significantly less likely to be impacted by supply chain issues. Color has a national network of CLIA-certified labs, ensuring fast turnaround and guaranteed testing availability. 

Evaluate your full testing, tracking and reporting needs, end-to-end

This ETS has significant record keeping requirements, for both testing and vaccination. This has the potential to be a logistical nightmare for highly distributed organizations with dozens or hundreds of locations. It’s essential that you find a solution that minimizes the overhead on your team and limits your risk from failure to report. Integrated testing and reporting platforms like Color will allow you to “record as you go” – minimizing the risk of information gaps and compliance failures.


Additional information, resources and support

White House & OSHA resources

Color resources

  • Color webinar
    We’re hosting a live webinar on Tuesday, November 9th at 10am PT to discuss the implications of this mandate. During this session we will:
    • Break down the key requirements of this OSHA mandate
    • Highlight what will be of greatest impact to large organizations
    • Share some best practices we’ve seen when establishing a workplace testing and vaccination management program

Sign up for the Color webinar

  • Testing and vaccination solutions for SMB
    Much of the media focus has been on larger enterprises, but SMBs account for the majority of businesses impacted by this mandate. Color’s self-serve solution provides all the components a smaller organization needs to roll out a comprehensive testing and compliance program, at minimal cost and complexity. Visit to learn more.

  • Live support
    Our team is always available for a 1-1 consultation if you need help understanding these regulations or preparing for compliance.



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