Safety Planning and Worker Protections

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) creates workplace safety questions, pandemic planning needs and compliance challenges for employers. Use the resources below as you monitor COVID-19 and its impact on your employees and business.

OSHA Standards & COVID-19

To help employers deal with the outbreak of COVID-19, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a COVID-19 resource page.

While there is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19 at this time, OSHA highlighted the following standards for employers to consider in preventing occupational exposure:

  • The General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
  • Personal Protective Equipment Standards require the use of gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection to prevent identified hazards. Respiratory protection requires comprehensive training to meet the Respiratory Protection standard.
  • Recordkeeping Requirements: While 29 CFR 1904.5(b)(2)(viii) exempts recording of the common cold and flu, COVID-19 is a recordable illness when a worker is infected on the job.

On OSHA’s resource page, additional standards that may apply are outlined, including protecting workers from exposure to hazardous chemicals used for cleaning and disinfection.

Additionally, there are twenty-eight OSHA-approved State Plans, operating statewide occupational safety and health programs. State Plans are required to have standards and enforcement programs that are at least as effective as OSHA’s and may have different or more stringent requirements. Some of these state standards may create additional compliance requirements related to COVID-19.

Finally, Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 USC 660(c), prohibits employers from retaliating against workers for raising concerns about safety and health conditions. Employers should keep these requirements in mind if an employee raises concerns about COVID-19.

Updated Guidance from OSHA

OSHA released updated guidance to prepare businesses for COVID-19. The guidance includes how an outbreak could affect workplaces, steps to reduce exposure, classifying worker exposure, protecting jobs at different risk levels, international resources and contact information.

COVID-19 As a Recordable Illness

OSHA’s website states:

COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are met:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (see CDC information on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19);
  2. The case is work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g. medical treatment beyond first-aid, days away from work).

Visit OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements page for more information.

Temperature Testing Employees

While the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated guidance to allow employers to temperature test employees, it should still be approached with caution. Since COVID-19 has many symptoms, simply testing for fever will not eliminate the risk posed by those who are contagious and show minimal or no symptoms.

If employers decide to take the temperature of employees, it is pertinent to consider:

  1. How they will keep the information confidential.
  2. How to take temperatures while maintaining
    social distancing.
  3. How to proceed if an employee refuses to have their temperature taken and their return to work policy if an employee has an elevated temperature.

This is not an exhaustive list of considerations, and each workplace will need to evaluate if this is an appropriate action.

Protecting Your Workforce

For our recommendations on protecting your workforce, download the PDF below.

Please be advised that any and all information, comments, analysis, and/or recommendations set forth above relative to the possible impact of COVID-19 on potential insurance coverage or other policy implications are intended solely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice. As an insurance broker, we have no authority to make coverage decisions as that ability rests solely with the issuing carrier. Therefore, all claims should be submitted to the carrier for evaluation. The positions expressed herein are opinions only and are not to be construed as any form of guarantee or warranty. Finally, given the extremely dynamic and rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation, comments above do not take into account any applicable pending or future legislation introduced with the intent to override, alter or amend current policy language.

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