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As an employer, you always have a health and safety obligation to your employees. But in the face of the novel coronavirus pandemic, that obligation has become more important than ever before.
Unfortunately, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, it’s difficult for employers to know where they stand. You want to keep your employees safe, but first, you have to know how.
The best place to start is by understanding your responsibilities. Here’s a closer look at health and safety for employers means in the era of COVID-19.
Before discussing employer responsibilities as a whole during COVID, it helps to know how your basic responsibilities for health and safety apply here.
In the most basic terms, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSH Act), employers have a legal obligation to provide their employees with a safe workplace. That’s it. In more technical terms, you have to provide a safe workplace reasonably free of recognized hazards while complying with OSHA standards, rules, and regulations.
In other words, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that their work conditions are safe. It is also the employer’s responsibility to ensure employees have the tools and knowledge they need to engage in safe behavior, and if employers notice a problem, it is their responsibility to correct it.
This brings us to the issue of COVID-19.
It’s strange to think how much the pandemic has become a part of our daily lives. Nonetheless, it remains a widespread public health crisis, and as responsible members of the community, employers play a large role in preventing and containing transmission.
What does this mean in relation to your General Duty Clause obligations? According to the CDC, employer COVID-19 responsibilities are directly connected to community awareness. You must be aware of the level of coronavirus transmission in your community and revise your business response plans accordingly. Follow the CDC’s guidance for mitigation strategies on that front.
In the meantime, there are plenty of options available to you to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in keeping with your responsibilities under the General Duty Clause. While your reopening plan may change over time, these are steps you should follow regardless of your current phased reopening.
Before you consider reopening, you need to change your cleaning schedule. You need regular deep disinfection as well as cleaning between work shifts to minimize the potential for transmission from touch points.
If possible, your organization should institute a remote work policy so that workers do not have to interact with each other face-to-face. If such a policy is not possible, you should stagger shifts or offer shorter work days to minimize contact.
We know that health and safety for employers is harder than ever during the pandemic. But we also know that when it’s something as important as employee safety, you can’t afford to hope for the best. You have to do your best, no ifs, ands, or buts.
If you need more health and safety guidance to help you find your way through the pandemic, make sure to check out our blog for more posts on the coronavirus.
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