COVID-19 Employer Playbook


Employer Requirements OSHA imposes a general duty of care for employers to provide a safe and healthy working environment. If an employee becomes infected by COVID-19 while working (including travel for work), the employer is required to prepare and file reports with OSHA. It is also a requirement for employers to provide personal protective equipment to keep employees safe from hazards. As might be suspected, these requirements pose some significant challenges for many employers in the pandemic environment of COVID-19. PPE and COVID-19 The CDC has issued guidance about when Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as respirators or masks are required for COVID-19. Currently, they are only required for certain healthcare personnel with greater exposure. PPE is not required in non-healthcare settings, such as schools and non-healthcare work environments. The CDC is not recommending the use of face masks or any other protective equipment by the general public who are not showing symptoms. Authorities specifically do not recommend that people who are well wear some type of mask to protect themselves from COVID-19. Lastly, the CDC does recommend that people with symptoms of COVID-19 wear surgical masks. OSHA and the Workplace The CDC recommends that if an employee shows symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the employee should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Employers may be required under OSHA to take steps to screen clients, guests, and other visitors to work sites if there is a significant risk of spreading the virus in the workplace environment. If an employee refuses to come to work because of fear of contracting COVID-19, employers probably do not have to accommodate refusal. (While some other countries have done so, the U.S. has not yet declared COVID-19 to be an imminent threat. If this occurred, such work accommodation requests would need to be viewed in a different light.) For now, employers should be mindful that under OSHA, employees have the right to refuse to do work if all the following conditions are met: • Where possible, the employee has asked the employer to eliminate danger, and the employer failed to do so • The employee refused to work in “good faith” • The employee must genuinely believe that imminent danger exists • A reasonable person would agree there is real danger of death or serious injury • There isn’t enough time due to the urgency of the hazard to get it corrected by requesting OSHA inspection


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