Playing It Safe

As companies are continuing to navigate employees working from home, providing a reduction in services, and limiting hours of service or shutting down all together, these issues are compounded by the possibility that members of their workforce could contract the Coronavirus. Is there a risk that companies could be held accountable in this situation?

OSHA requires employers to provide to their employees a place to work that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” As such, employers should be taking steps to protect their workplace and its employees from others who may have contracted the virus. Three things that can be done to help mitigate the liability risk:

  • Prepare communications to employees that outline industry and company-specific best practices;
  • Remind employees of current, existing rules in your workplace that they are expected to continue to follow; and
  • Implement temporary rules specifically related to health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, more frequent sanitization procedures, staying at least six feet away from each other, reporting any concerns regarding violations of the new procedures, etc.).

Further, document the company’s compliance with the CDC guidance, governor’s executive orders, and local requirements, including meeting notes and copies of memos and posters.

Remember, employers can require employees to provide certain information, such as if the employee has travelled to hotspots of the Coronavirus, requiring answers to questions that may help identify symptomatic employees, and taking employees’ temperature upon arrival.

If an employee tests positive for the Coronavirus, the workforce should be notified with details about when and where the infected employee was working to determine who may have been exposed. The employee’s name should not be released and any other details about the employee’s illness should be kept confidential in a separate, private file.

Your employees will take notice and appreciate the company’s concern about their health and safety if they see the company taking steps to protect them. Questions or concerns about your workplace? Contact our office at info@wrightbeamer.com or (248) 477-6300.