The Coronavirus and the Workplace: What Employers Need to Know

The coronavirus (COVID-19) and its rapid spread have been dominating news headlines and conversations around the watercooler. As an employer, what can you do to prepare your workplace for the potential impacts of the coronavirus? This is a tricky and challenging situation for a number of reasons. First, you are confronted with the possibility of an outbreak in the workplace. Second, your job is to maintain a healthy and safe work environment. Third, on top of all of that, you are subject to a number of legal requirements protecting workers.

To begin, when addressing the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace, employers should take the following initial steps to create a safe, compliant work environment.

  • Second, be proactive. Educate their employees on what is known about the virus, including its transmission and prevention. It’s likely that employees are concerned or nervous. Giving them accurate, timely information can go a long way in minimizing panic and confusion. The CDC, OSHA and WHO all have informational material on the virus and its symptoms, prevention and treatment that can be valuable for employees.
  • Third, be up-to-date. Communicating how your company will handle potential impacts of the coronavirus may help employees feel more confident and knowledgeable, enabling them to make educated decisions. Establish a written, communicable illness policy and response plan that covers communicable diseases readily transmitted in the workplace.
  • Fourth, be flexible. Consider measures that can help prevent the spread of illness, such as allowing employees flexible work options like working from home. Consider also that employees with children may need to work remotely if schools and daycares close and there is no other option for childcare.

Quick Note on Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

According to OSHA’s website, there is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, there are OSHA requirements that apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. These include the General Duty clause, OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards and Bloodborne Pathogens standard. As an employer, relate back to our four steps – continue to monitor COVID-19 to determine whether your employees are at risk of exposure. Also, remember your OSHA 300A record-keeping requirements as OSHA says COVID-19 is a recordable illness when contracted on the job.

Stay tuned for future posts, where we will discuss any potential impact of COVID-19 and leave programs.

Rose & Kiernan, Inc. will continue to monitor and advise on the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its impact on businesses and the workplace. Any further questions? The EBMG group at Rose & Kiernan can help.  Please contact us here or by calling (800) 242-4433.

Please note that news and events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are changing quickly. The information provided in this blog post represents where things stand on the date of publication.

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