Utilities Move to Institute Vaccine Mandates Amongst the Confusion
- Sep 27, 2021 3:53 pm GMT
The Covid 19 pandemic continues to dramatically impact utility management planning. Spurred by White House executive orders, close to half (46%) of organizations now plan vaccine mandate programs, according to Gartner Inc., a market research firm. However, how they will institute such programs and the legality of the orders continue to cloud the decision making process.
In early September, the Biden administration issued two executive orders mandating vaccines for federal workers and contractors and creating new requirements for employers and health care providers. Using Department of Labor Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations the orders require businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or require that any unvaccinated workers produce a negative Covid test at least once a week. The orders affect about 100 million workers, more than two-thirds of the U.S. workforce.
A Change in Thinking
The new federal guidance shifted utility executive opinions on vaccine mandates. In February, only 8% of these companies planned to mandate vaccines for workers. Since then, the number increased close to sixfold.
As a result, energy corporations are now scrambling to put checks in place to determine which employees have been vaccinated and how to treat those who are not. The changes mean that they will need to tweak their corporate software and put new business processes in place to support the checking.
Utility Executives Face New Management Challenges
Finding ways to implement the mandate, such as proof of vaccinations and regular diagnostic testing, can be a logistical and liability nightmare. The requirements push utilities executives out of their industry knowledge comfort zone and into areas, like health care policy, where they have little experience and training.
The federal mandate also raised many questions, starting with the legality of the orders. Organizations as well as state and local government have challenged the mandate and even passed laws that are counter to it, forbidding such decrees.
The mandates come at a time when many energy companies have been struggling to hire workers willing to interact with the public. In the industry, positions, like remote service technicians, have been hard to fill. Some workers left the field because they do not view the working conditions as safe.
Confusion Still Reigns with Vaccine Mandates
The conflicting information and business demand have left many utilities in a quandary. In fact, 36% of respondents are unsure of their organization’s vaccine plans, according to Gartner.
Since the pandemic began, utility executives have struggled to determine how to provide a safe, secure workplace. Vaccine mandates are the latest complication in that process. A growing number of energy companies are moving to implement such policies, despite the confusion and the controversy that surrounds them.
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