As part of its effort to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, OSHA recently issued OSHA 4045-06 2020 (“Guidance on Returning to Work”). This guidance is not “law.” Its recommendations are advisory. Nevertheless, employers may find the guidance helpful in their effort to take reasonable care to protect employees and to comply with OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which requires covered employers to provide employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
Reopening should comply with requirements of applicable federal, state, and local law and applicable public health recommendations. Select issues for employers to address as they welcome employees back to work include:
Assess job duties for each position to determine which may involve occupational exposure from close contact with workers, customers, or visitors.
Provide supplies to facilitate proper hygiene in the workplace, and increase frequency of cleaning and disinfecting in high traffic areas and on frequently-touched surfaces.
To the extent practicable, maximize the distance between workers, customers, and visitors, with a goal of at least 6 feet.
Identification and Isolation of Sick Employees
Be aware of and comply with any applicable law that requires employers to screen employees each day before allowing them into the workplace. Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, if covered, and/or applicable state or local law when making medical inquiries.
Even if daily screening is not required, ask employees to self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to work and to stay home if ill. Have a plan for managing people who become ill in the workplace.
Notify employees of potential exposure, in compliance with the ADA or other applicable law.
Return to Work After Illness or Exposure
Follow CDC guidance for returning to work after illness or exposure, understanding that such guidance changes as we learn more about COVID.
Consider appropriate engineering and administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) based on the hazard assessment (see “Hazard Assessment” above).
Consider policies that facilitate telework, sick or other leave, and other options that minimize workers’ exposure risk.
Train employees about risks of exposure, what the employer is doing to protect them, and how they can protect themselves.
Educate employees about who to contact with workplace safety/health concerns. Reassure them of the employer’s commitment to prohibit retaliation. Educate supervisors of your expectations.
More Detailed Guidance
More detailed guidance is available below.
The employment attorneys of Wooden McLaughlin LLP can assist with these and all of your employment law needs. Call us at 888-639-6151 or visit our offices in Indianapolis, Evansville, or Bloomington to schedule a consultation.
(This post summarizes complex legal issues and is not legal advice. Consider consulting with a lawyer about specific situations.)