As American businesses begin to reopen, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidelines for employers. The purpose of these guidelines is to provide examples of how employers can translate the recommended practices for COVID-19 control and prevention into return-to-work strategies.
Employers should assess all job tasks held by employees to determine which involve occupational exposure. This should include exposures from members of the public such as customers, clients, or visitors who workers would interact with. Employers should then consider current outbreak conditions in the community.
Employers should encourage frequent hand-washing and provide soap, water, and paper towels for all workers and customers to wash their hands. They should also provide hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) and encourage workers to use it frequently when they are unable to readily wash their hands. High-traffic areas should also be identified, including surfaces or items that are shared or frequently touched that could become contaminated.
Employers should limit business occupancy to the number of workers and customers that can be safely accommodated to allow for social distancing. They should also provide proper signs with reminders to practice social distancing, demarcate flooring in six-feet zones for areas where people typically congregate, and post directional signs in hallways and corridors where social distancing abilities may be limited.
Identification and Isolation of Sick Employees
Employers should ask their employees to evaluate themselves for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before returning to work. If they become ill at work, employers should have a set plan for how they will leave the workplace without further exposing other workers or customers.
Employers should select and implement appropriate engineering and administrative controls. Engineering controls include physical barriers or shields. Administrative controls can include staggering work shifts, limiting breakroom capacity, replacing in-place meetings with video-conference calls, implementing the use of face coverings, etc.
Employers should evaluate their existing company policies, and if needed, consider new ones that facilitate the appropriate use of telework, sick leave, and other options that help minimize workers’ exposure risks. Employers should also clearly communicate their workplace flexibilities to their staff to ensure that they understand their available options.
Employers should provide training for workers to ensure they understand the signs, symptoms, and risk factors associated with COVID-19. Employees should understand the ways they can protect themselves and reduce the exposure of others around them while they are working.
Employers should ensure that their workers understand their rights to a safe and healthy work environment. Workers should also know who to contact with questions or concerns regarding workplace safety and health, and prohibitions against retaliation for raising workplace safety and health concerns.
You can find more information and details regarding OSHA’s newest guidelines for reopening businesses here.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, mediator, arbitrator, and workplace/Title IX investigator in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela also is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution. She also owns her own law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in workplace and Title IX discrimination, harassment and sexual assault investigations.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.