On June 18, 2020, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), an agency of the U. S. Department of Labor, issued guidance on reopening workplaces after the global outbreak of COVID-19. The agency notes that nothing in the guidance they issued creates a legal obligation, but is simply meant to advise employers and workers on best practices for returning to the workplace. OSHA advises that these guidelines should operate alongside local and regional stay-at-home orders, as well as CDC recommendations, as the economy starts up again and non-essential businesses reopen.
- Employers should provide hand sanitizer, handwashing supplies, and frequently disinfect high-touch areas.
- Post signs requesting that employees and customers stay six feet apart; consider marking floors indicating where individuals should stand; and limit number of people inside a business at a given time.
Identifying sick employees
- Ask employees to screen themselves for illness symptoms at home and not to report to work if they are not feeling well.
- Have an isolation/disinfection plan in place in the event an employee becomes ill at work.
- Consider local COVID-19 outbreaks and know which positions in a business have the greatest risk of virus exposure.
Return to Work after Illness
- If an employee has been sick or has been in contact with a sick person, the employer needs to follow CDC guidelines for discontinuing isolation or self-quarantine.
- If possible, employers should increase ventilation, install physical barriers, limit in-person meetings, and provide PPE when necessary.
- Employees need to know that they will not be punished for raising a health issue, and they need to know who to contact in case one arises.
- Employers should furnish employees instruction on how to wear a mask and any other protective equipment their roles require.
- Employers need to have sick leave and telework policies if possible.
The guidance provides a number of questions and answers regarding returning to work that will be helpful to employers. Here are some important takeaways:
- Employers can test for COVID-19 at work.
- Employers can require temperature checks.
- Anyone conducting health screenings needs PPE.
- Employers should conduct an OSHA hazard assessment of their workplace when determining whether PPE is necessary for employees.
- Employers need to consult the EEOC guidelines to ensure their reopening practices are not violating any other types of laws.
OSHA notes that guidelines have to be adaptable to the local situation regarding COVID-19 cases. If there is a virus resurgence, employers will have to adjust their practices accordingly. The OSHA guidelines will assist employers in shifting back to a semblance of normal employment, while keeping in mind the health and safety of all.