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Employer Responsibilities During Coronavirus Pandemic

waitress using digital tablet and wear face masks

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on. New York City has done a better job than other metropolitan areas in enforcing social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, allowing for businesses to begin safely reopening. If you are an essential employee, or if your place of business is reopening as part of the next phase, you need to understand the responsibilities of your employer concerning employee health and safety. Here, we discuss some of the guidance that federal officials have issued to keep workers safe during the pandemic. Call an experienced Bronx personal injury attorney if you have been exposed to a virus in the workplace or otherwise have been hurt due to negligence.

OSHA Guidance for Workplaces

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued guidance to workplaces already open or that plan to reopen in the near future. While they stress that these are suggestions, rather than legal obligations, OSHA guidance is certainly a benchmark for determining whether a workplace carries a risk of exposure. If you have contracted the coronavirus and your employer has failed to implement these controls, you could have a strong case for workers’ compensation or other forms of recovery.

OSHA’s guidance includes the following steps, among others, that all employers should take to reduce workers’ risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus:

Develop a plan for preventing and responding to infectious diseases. All workplaces should have a plan in place for preventing the spread of disease, including preventative measures, symptoms to watch out for, and steps to take when an employee appears to be ill. The plan should take into account individual risk factors as well, including older age and chronic medical conditions, offering additional protections for at-risk workers. The plan should include means to identify and isolate sick people where appropriate and possible, including by encouraging and rewarding self-identification.
Prepare to implement basic prevention measures. Workplaces should promote handwashing, encourage sick workers to stay home, encourage proper sneeze and cough etiquette, discourage employees from sharing workspaces, food, and equipment, and ensure regular housekeeping. Employers should allow and promote remote workspaces, such as telecommunication, where possible. Employers should discuss these measures with contractors who visit the office to ensure that they, too, are following proper safety protocols.
Provide PPE. We’ve discussed it before: Under federal and New York State law, employers are required to furnish personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves for all employees who interact with the public. The same equipment should be provided to all workers in an enclosed environment.
Implement workplace controls. Employers should work to ensure that both the physical and social infrastructure at the workplace are effective for preventing and responding to the risk of infectious disease. High-efficiency air filters, physical barriers such as clear plastic sneeze-guards, drive-through windows (where appropriate), and separation between customer-facing and back-office workers will all help reduce the risk of spread. Administrative controls should be utilized to minimize the spread, such as alternating shifts to limit the number of people in the workplace, discontinuing nonessential travel, and developing emergency communications plans. Safe work practices should be taught and enforced.

Dedicated Service to Frontline New York Workers Risking Coronavirus Infection

If you or someone you love has contracted the coronavirus from their workplace or has otherwise been injured due to someone else’s negligence in New York, find out if you’re entitled to money damages for the harm you have endured by contacting the passionate and dedicated New York personal injury lawyers at the Bronx offices of the Kohn Law Firm for a free consultation, at 718-409-1200.

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