The COVID-19 Coronavirus is in the process of testing the limits of the American health care system, employers in California and throughout the United States have been equally challenged in determining how best to respond to the situation. Our guidance below is intended to help mitigate risks for businesses and employers while reducing the concerns that are arising out of how best to handle the coronavirus pandemic.
Should Employers Need to Adopt a Coronavirus Policy?
As many employers already know, OSHA requires all employers to provide employees with the safe and healthy workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause physical harm, and to comply with basic occupational safety and health standards. As a result, it is a best policy for employers to enact a Coronavirus Policy for risk management reasons so that the employer is proactively taking steps to minimize employee risks and hazards.
What Should a Coronavirus Policy Contain?
The policy should contain a statement of basic preventative measures and safety precautions that will help minimize the risk of employees contracting or spreading coronavirus through the workplace. For example:
- frequently washing their hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol;
avoiding touching their eyes, nose and mouth;
covering sneezes or coughs with tissues, if possible, or else with a sleeve or shoulder;
avoiding close contact with people who are sick;
staying home when sick; and
cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects.
Should Employers Supply Sanitizer and Cleaning Disinfectant Products?
Many employers are wondering whether it is their obligation to pay for and supply and sanitizers and soap or other cleaning and disinfecting products at the workplace. Although an employer is not required to provide cleaning supplies were disinfectant supplies by law, under the unique circumstances presented by the coronavirus, it is recommended that employers take all steps necessary to minimize the spread and growth of the coronavirus illness, especially for risk management reason and to avoid any claims that the employer knew of the potential risk to employees failed to take steps to mitigate it. As a result, employers should maintain adequate supplies at the workplace, including the following items:
Should Employers Enact Stricter Cleaning Standards and Frequent Cleanings?
Further same reasons as above, it is recommended that employers review all cleaning activities and increase cleaning operations so that services are disinfected frequently. Because of the potential for the virus to be transmitted through hard surfaces, employers can reduce the spread of illness by increasing and adopting stricter cleaning measures, including:
- Enacting hourly or semi-daily cleanings of door handles, elevator buttons, phones, keyboards, countertops, and shared workspace areas
- Disinfecting conference room phones, desks, supplies, and other areas that are shared by employees or visitors
- Bringing in cleaning services for deep-cleanings and sanitizing services to prevent spread of illness
What Should an Employer Do if an Employee Believes They Became Ill?
Any employee who is concerned about symptoms should be encouraged to go home if they are sick or if they have been exposed to someone who is ill. Employee should be encouraged to remain home until they are free of any symptoms, usually for 14 to 21 days and potentially longer if they are invulnerable population groups. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) specifically instruct employers to immediately send home any employee who has any symptom of an acute respiratory illness.
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