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Failure of an Employer to Provide a Safe Work Environment During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Workers wear protective face masks for safety in machine industrial factory.

As states across the country start to gradually lift shutdown orders and permit reopening, and as essential workers continue to put themselves at risk to provide necessities for everyone else, it is vitally important for employers to make sure that their employees are safe. Employers have a responsibility to their workers to provide them with adequate equipment, training, and policies to lessen the dangers they may face, and now, more than ever, we must hold these employers to a high standard. While recourse for a workplace injury is mainly limited to workers’ compensation, there are circumstances under which an employee can file a personal injury lawsuit due to illness or injury caused by workplace conditions. Regardless, employees must understand their rights and the obligations of their employers to ensure that employers take the risks frontline workers now face seriously. Continue reading for a discussion of some of the ways an employer might fail in the duty of care to their employees during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and reach out to a dedicated Bronx personal injury attorney if you have become ill due to someone else’s negligence.

Employers should educate their workforce

Safety organizations and agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) have issued guidance on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their employees know how to limit the spread of the illness, know the risk factors, know what symptoms to watch out for in themselves and others, and are kept up to date on the status of the pandemic.

Employers should require social distancing

Reopening businesses does not mean letting every building become flooded with workers and customers. Reopening must happen gradually and carefully. Even if businesses are open to workers and customers, employers must enforce social distancing measures to protect workers from contracting and spreading the illness. Employers who fail to instruct workers on proper social distancing, and who fail to require workers and customers to employ social distancing measures while at work, are failing in their basic duty to keep their workers safe.

Employers should enforce good hygiene practices

Among the behaviors that employers should educate and enforce among their workers, good hygiene is paramount. Restaurants are no longer the only business that should have a sign that says, “employees must wash hands.” Washing hands, cleaning surfaces, and avoiding unsanitary behavior such as face-touching is an essential and effective way of reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Employers must protect workers from customers

If a business is customer-facing, employers must take measures to protect their workers from contracting an illness from their customers. Employers should, for example, limit the number of customers who enter a store. Many grocery stores started limiting the number of customers who could shop at any given time, and now that more stores are reopening, they should follow suit. Employers should also install protective barriers between customers and employers at food stations, checkout stations, customer service counters, and other points of interface between customers and employees.

Employers failing to provide proper PPE for workers

We discussed personal protective equipment (PPE) at length in another recent post, but it bears repeating: Federal and New York laws clearly require employers to provide employees with sufficient protection during the coronavirus pandemic. Essential businesses must provide protective face coverings for employees who interact with the public, and they must provide them at their own cost. They cannot rely on workers to bring in their own masks and gloves.

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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