According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA), employees in the United States are currently at low risk of exposure to the coronavirus (officially named COVID-19). However, as the virus continues to spread internationally and domestically and public health issues rapidly evolve, employers must act now to prevent and be prepared for a potential outbreak in the workplace and community.
See list below of employer considerations and strategies. Be sure to click on each link for details and continue to monitor the websites for new developments and guidance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appears to provide some of the best and most regularly updated information on its website.
How to Prepare
- Understand the basics of the coronavirus. It’s a respiratory illness that can spread between people from a cough or sneeze, similar to the flu. It’s particularly dangerous for individuals with weakened immune systems, infants and the elderly. See our Bulletin below, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and World Health Organization (WHO) website for more information, including the symptoms, how it spreads, and how to treat and prevent it.
- Review workplace safety and preparedness plans and comply with OSHA to protect employees. You can use our bulletins on Coronaviruses and the Workplace and Protecting Workers from Coronavirus for reference. See also, workplace guidance from WHO, and interim guidance for businesses and employers from CDC which includes the following recommendations:
- Encourage sick employees to stay home
- Separate employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms and send them home as appropriate
- Consider (expanding) telecommuting policy if feasible
- Educate employees on respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene
- Maintain cleanliness of frequently touched surfaces
- Provide employees with disposable wipes and alcohol-based hand sanitizer, soap and other cleaning suppliesRead Our Bulletin: Coronaviruses and the Workplace Read Our Bulletin: Protecting Workers from Coronavirus
- Appoint a senior-level employee to manage your pandemic (or similar) policy / protocol and keep upper management abreast of new developments.
- Consider company travel policies, including whether to avoid trips to affected areas. Remind employees of travel wellness tips such as frequent hand-washing. Monitor CDC website for travel updates.
- Communicate to employees the pertinent facts about coronavirus and when to stay home, seek medical care and self-report to their employer and public health organizations. Remind employees of your leave policy including FMLA.
- Comply with HIPAA and other privacy laws regarding disclosure of information about an employee with coronavirus to family, friends, public health authorities, the media and others.
- Act in accordance with ADA, FMLA, Title VII and other federal and state statutes and regulations. For updates specific to Alabama, refer to the AL Department of Public Health website.
- Do not make determinations of risk based on race or country of origin.
- Develop a contingency and business continuity plan for an outbreak in the workplace and/or community. See bulletin below for a Business Continuity / Recovery Checklist.
If you have any questions, please contact one of our consultants.