Safety in the Workplace with COVID-19

This article was co-authored by Alex Miller, Safety Services Director at Leavitt Pacific Insurance Brokers in San Jose, CA

With many States discussing allowing businesses to open back up, and others who are essential and at the worksite, keeping employees safe is top of mind for employers. We, at the Leavitt Group, care about your employees. This guidance will provide some tips on how various State and Federal rules will interact with your business to require certain actions to keep your employees safe.

State versus Federal Law

This article defaults to a Cal-OSHA’s perspective although many States will be similar, if not the same.

For example, in California, if the business does not fall under the ATD standard, (Aerosol Transmissible Disease), which includes places such as hospitals, labs, correctional, or police organizations, Cal-OSHA and Fed-OSHA are basically deferring to the CDC guidelines. Fed-OSHA is directing their compliance officers to use “enforcement discretion” with respect to some COVID-19 related cases.  (See link for example memos here and here.)  Cal-OSHA has not indicated an inclination to provide any similar enforcement discretion, but also has not instituted any increased enforcement efforts.  You can find their site here:  Check with your State or Federal safety jurisdiction to make sure there are no special requirements.

In both states and Federal jurisdictions, all employers are required to provide a safe work environment for their employees. Generally, if an employer complies with the CDC’s interim recommendations, they should be compliant. Highlights of those recommendations are summarized below. See the recommendation for full details.

Keeping Employees Safe

Reduce Transmission Among Employees

  • Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
  • Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work, and mitigate as much as possible
  • Separate sick employees
  • Educate employees about what it is and preventive steps that can be taken

Maintain Healthy Business Operations

  • Identify a workplace coordinator responsible for COVID-19 issues
  • Implement flexible sick leave and supportive policies and practices
  • Assess your essential functions and reliance on third parties and the community, as well as their reliance on you
    • Try to reduce reliance in order to minimize risk
  • Determine how absenteeism will affect the organization and how to address, i.e. remote work and telecommuting
  • Consider establishing policies and practices for social distancing
  • Consider delegating authorities to remote locations to address local COVID-19 issues

Maintain a Healthy Work Environment

  • Consider improving building ventilation system
  • Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene for employees, customers, and worksite visitors
  • Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection
    • If an employee is suspected or confirmed with COVID-19, perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection
  • Advise traveling employees to take additional preparations
  • Consider alternatives to meetings and gatherings, (i.e. tele/videoconferencing, outdoor spaces, etc.)

While things are changing quickly in these areas, it is best practice to follow CDC recommendations and error on the conservative side. The Leavitt Group Compliance team is working hard to keep you informed as new guidance is released. Be sure to have your Leavitt Group representative or you, yourself, sign up for the Leavitt Group News Alerts. You can subscribe here.

The information contained herein is not intended to be legal, financial or employment advice. The information was accurate at the time of writing and the information moves quickly during these times. Be sure to refer to government resource sites for up-to-date information:

Leavitt Group COVID-19 Resource Center

Consult your own legal professional to ensure compliance with all applicable law. The Leavitt Group is not an employment law firm.