Co-Author: John Holbach | Senior Loss Consultant | Resourcing Edge

The daily struggle that employers face regarding employee (or an employee family member) falling ill is not a new concept for employers. Employers are constantly faced with employees experiencing illnesses, causing missed work and a slowdown in the workplace. It is a primary focus for employers to facilitate the well being of all employees and to combat the loss in productivity. This is not a new concept in the workplace; however, the introduction of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has set a new precedent within the workplace.

Most employers can agree that this new virus, with no known cure, has come with its own set of unique concerns. Navigating the how-to’s and unique concerns of the virus can seem overwhelming with the amount of attention COVID-19 has created for itself. A breakdown of the legal and regulatory considerations while responding to this illness can be overwhelming. Is your company ready to respond in accordance to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?

OSHA has issued Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 (OSHA 3990-03 2020). It provides information on how to classify your employees (e.g. Very High, High, Medium, and Low Risk Categories) in addition to the Engineering and Administrative Controls needed to prevent spread, along with some suggested PPE required as well.

Under the General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

So, what does this mean? As COVID-19 (according to OSHA) is a “Recognized Hazard” employers must perform some additional actions to protect their employees.

Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures

For most employers, protecting workers will depend on emphasizing basic infection prevention measures. As appropriate, all employers should implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including:

  • Promote frequent and thorough hand washing, including by providing workers, customers, and worksite visitors with a place to wash their hands. If soap and running water are not immediately available, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. When choosing cleaning chemicals, employers should consult information on Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved disinfectant labels with claims against emerging viral pathogens. Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, PPE).
  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Employers should explore whether they can establish policies and practices, such as flexible worksites (e.g., telecommuting) and flexible work hours (e.g., staggered shifts), to increase the physical distance among employees and between employees and others if state and local health authorities recommend the use of social distancing strategies.
  • Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.

Please take the time to review OSHA’s Guidance and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact any of our Resourcing Edge professionals at https://resourcingedge.com/contact-us/

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