Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, we have been talking about things to do to keep your employees safe and what laws apply in that arena. Recently, OSHA started handing out fines to companies for employee outbreaks across the country, from New Jersey to Colorado to Louisiana to South Dakota.
The recent COVID-19 citations rely on the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s general duty clause:
Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
DOL’s news releases do not provide much detail on the alleged violations, merely that the companies failed to protect the employees from the coronavirus. It appears that most are related to events from Spring 2020.
What Does This Mean to You?
It is a pandemic and employees are going to get sick, but there are still things you can do to protect your employees and your company.
- If OSHA has issued specific guidance for your industry, follow it.
- If there is no specific guidance, look to the general guidance on proactive measures you can take to protect workers, such as social distancing or, when that is not available, using physical barriers, face shields, and face coverings. Keep in mind that this guidance can change, so stay up to date.
- Put up signs that remind employees to social distance and wear face coverings.
- Enforce your safety measures. Just like you would not let an employee work without a hard hat or safety glasses, you cannot let an employee work without a face covering.
Don’t forget to maintain injury and illness logs, and make them available as required.