- OSHA Issues Guidance On Preventing Workplace Spread Of COVID-19- read now
- Losing the Clydesdales: How Budweiser is Setting an Example to Revitalize COVID Business Operations – read now
OSHA Issues Guidance On Preventing Workplace Spread Of COVID-19
On his first full day in office, President Biden stroked an Executive Order directing the Secretary of Labor, who oversees the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), to issue revised COVID-19 workplace-safety guidelines by early February and, if necessary, to issue “emergency temporary standards on COVID-19” by March 15. This past Friday, OSHA took its first step toward compliance with that Order by publishing “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” (the “Guidance”).
After briefly describing the COVID-19 virus itself, the Guidance addresses “What Workers Need To Know About COVID-19 Protections In The Workplace.” This portion of the Guidance advises that “[t]he best way to protect yourself is to stay” at least 6 feet “away from other people so that you are not breathing in particles produced by an infected person,” and highlights both the importance of good personal hygiene (such as frequent hand-washing and mouth-and-nose covering when coughing or sneezing) and the purposes and benefits of face coverings. It also reports that many employers have implemented protection programs that include measures ranging from “telework to flexible schedules to personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings” and suggests that workers ask their employers about their plans for workplace protection against COVID-19.
The core of the Guidance, however, is a section entitled “The Role of Employers and Workers in Responding to COVID-19.” The Guidance here stresses that “[t]he most effective COVID-19 prevention programs engage workers and their representatives in the program’s development and implementation at every step.” The elements of such programs, the Guidance says, include the following:
- A workplace coordinator who addresses COVID-19 issues for the employer.
- Identification of where and how workers may be exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Identification of a combination of measures (such as hazard elimination, engineering controls, workplace administrative policies, and personal protective equipment (PPE)) that will limit the workplace spread of COVID-19.
- Consideration of work modifications (such as telework or, alternatively, sparsely-populated or better-ventilated work space) that may protect more vulnerable workers (g., older employees or employees with serious underlying medical conditions).
- Establishment of a system for communicating effectively with workers in a language they understand.
- Education and training of workers on COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats.
- A means to ensure that actually-or-potentially infected workers stay home and isolate or quarantine.
- A means to minimize the negative impact of quarantine and isolation on workers (by, for example allowing such workers (when possible) to telework, work in an isolated area, or use paid leave).
- Prompt isolation (from other workers, customers, and visitors) of employees who show COVID-19 symptoms in the workplace.
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of the workplace after any actually-or-potentially infected person has been present there.
- Guidance on virus screening and testing, which may include arranging for workplace testing through an occupational health provider or a local or state health department.
- Required recordation and reporting of COVID-19 infections and deaths.
- A procedure by which workers can anonymously voice concerns about COVID-19 hazards and corresponding anti-retaliation protections.
- Making a COVID-19 vaccine or vaccination series available at no cost to all eligible employees and training workers on the benefits and safety of vaccinations.
- A requirement that even vaccinated workers continue to follow protective measures (because it is not proven that COVID-19 vaccines prevent virus transmission).
- Compliance with pre-pandemic OSHA standards designed to protect workers from infection.
The final section of the Guidance provides “Additional Details on Key Measures for Limiting the Spread.” It identifies and thoroughly discusses those measures, which include separating (and sending home) symptomatic employees; implementing physical distancing in communal areas; installing barriers where physical distancing cannot be maintained; use of face coverings; improving ventilation; use of PPE when necessary; providing good-hygiene supplies; and routine cleaning and disinfection.
While the Guidance mostly covers safety measures that have become engrained in workplace practice since last March, employers are nonetheless well-advised to acquaint themselves with it. It will undoubtedly serve as the foundation for any binding temporary regulations that OSHA may issue by the March 15 deadline set by President Biden. Further, several of the suggested measures, such as no-cost vaccination for eligible employees, have not been widely adopted and merit employers’ heightened attention. Finally, the Guidance discusses work modifications, such as telework and flexible scheduling, that may be relevant to employers’ obligations under the Americans with Disability Act and state disability laws.
Losing the Clydesdales: How Budweiser is Setting an Example to Revitalize COVID Business Operations
from the desks of the WCS Employment Law Group
The COVID pandemic has forced the reimagining of what was once considered “normal” life. Birthday parties, business meetings, grocery store trips, household hand sanitizer supplies, movie releases—some new concepts, some old concepts, but all were redefined throughout 2020 and now 2021.
As we approach the one-year mark since the WHO announced COVID-19 a pandemic, we are still navigating some firsts. One of these will play out this Sunday, February 7, as we watch how one of the biggest sports events of the year will be tackled.
The Superbowl, culminating in a face-off between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs, is a coveted American tradition. It has previously meant gatherings with trash-talking, tables covered in more finger-foods than we have fingers to count, and time-honored good luck rituals of unwashed socks or designated seating.
Many Superbowl parties feature an individual or two that falls into the category of, “I just watch for the commercials.” And it’s no wonder, as a 30-second timeslot can run millions of dollars, aside from the movie-level production and talent expenses that go into the ad itself. They are miniature cinematic feats.
But commercial fans beware, as a hooved star will be missing from 2021’s line-up. Budweiser has decided against purchasing an ad for this year’s game. The famed Clydesdales will remain in their stables for the first time in 37 years, as the beer company has instead opted to put its marketing budget towards “critical COVID-19 vaccine awareness,” including funds directed to the Ad Council and COVID Collaborative’s Vaccine Education Initiative. This is in efforts to better communication efforts surrounding the vaccine to combat confusion and stigmas (CNN.com).
The screen will also be absent of Coca-Cola’s iconic red-capped bottle, as well as the blue can of its competitor, Pepsi. Both are a result of decreased sales.
These decisions go to show that amongst emerging needs, new initiatives can be outweighed by familiar habits. Priorities and budgets can shift rapidly, as the pandemic has proven. What was true even last month may not be so relevant now.
Your business may have embraced a steady routine with its pandemic precautions and operations, much like Budweiser had the consistency of its Superbowl ad content. However, circumstances like vaccine distribution, a new administration, and school re-openings may just mean you, well, lose the Clydesdales in favor of something else in the journey towards a healthier ‘normalcy.’ Continual adaptation must occur. This helps to avoid utilizing stale policies that don’t reflect the newest findings and decisions, and employees becoming lax in practices that now seem comfortable.
Perhaps, like these Fortune 500 companies, you need to reevaluate your business approach in 2021. Your goal may not be redirecting multi-million-dollar marketing budgets, but it may be to safely bring back employees, communicate an effective COVID vaccine plan, or plan for financial shifts that result from continued COVID repercussions and the change in administration.
If you have questions regarding topics like employee leave, employer government assistance, or others about your business operations, contact our Employment Law Group. Here’s to your Superbowl Sunday being fun, safe, and celebrated with a Budweiser toast!
If you’re interested in starting learning about the most recent policies now, check out some of these recent resources provided by our WCS attorneys:
- Webinar – Top 5 Legal Issues Identified for 2021
- February 9, 2021 @10-11AM EST
- Register here
- Webinar – Preparing for Lean Times – Addressing the potential long-term economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic and early 2021 political developments
- March 25, 2021 @9-10AM EST
- Sign up here
- Article – EEOC Updated Guidance on COVID Vaccines – link
- WCS COVID-19 Resources Page – link
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