These guidelines are meant to supplement the guidance entitled, CDC Activities and Initiative Supporting the COVID-19 Response and the President’s Plan for Opening American Up Again, issued on May 19, 2020. In addition, the new guidelines outline detailed actions for office building employers, building owners and managers, and building operations specialists to create a safe and healthy workplace and to protect their workers and clients. The recommended steps include:
- Create a COVID-19 workplace health and safety plan in accordance with CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers.
- Check the building to see if it is ready for occupancy prior to resuming business operations. This includes ensuring the ventilation systems operate properly, increasing circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, and checking for hazards associated with prolonged facility shutdown.
- Identify how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Employers should conduct a thorough hazard assessment of the workplace and identify common areas where employees come in close contact with others.
- Educate employees and supervisors about steps they can take to protect themselves at work. Employers should provide employees comprehensible communication and training concerning the signs and symptoms of infection, staying home when ill, social distancing, personal protective equipment, hand hygiene practices, and identifying and minimizing potential routes of transmission at work.
- Take actions to maintain a healthy work environment for your employees and clients. The guidelines recommend creating new sick leave, cleaning, and employee communication policies to protect workers and clients.
These guidelines also provide steps for reducing the transmission of COVID-19 among workers. In particular, the CDC recommends developing hazard controls such as engineering and administrative controls. Engineering controls are steps an employer can take to isolate workers from COVID-19. Administrative controls are measures the employer implements that change the way their employees work.
Suggested engineering controls include:
- Modifying seats and workstations.
- Using methods to physically separate employees in all areas of the facilities.
- Improving the ventilation in the building, using portable high-efficiency particulate air fan/filtration systems.
- Ensuring exhaust fans in restroom facilities are functional and operating at full capacity.
- Using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation as a supplement to help inactivate the virus.
An employer may implement the following administrative controls:
- Actively encouraging employees who have symptoms of COVID-19 or who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 to notify their supervisor and stay home.
- Conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks of employees before they enter the worksite.
- Staggering shifts, start times and break times.
- Posting signs in parking areas and entrances that ask guests and visitors to phone from their cars to inform the administration or security when they reach the facility.
- Posting signs in parking areas and entrances that ask guests and visitors to wear cloth face coverings.
- Requiring employees to wear cloth face coverings.
- Cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
- Providing employees with adequate time to wash their hands and access to soap, clean water, and single-use paper towels.
- Establishing policies and practices for social distancing.
- Offering employee incentives to use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others or allowing employees to commute during less busy times.
- Posting signs in strategic places with instructions on hand hygiene, COVID-19 symptoms, and cough and sneeze etiquette.
- Using no-touch receptacles.
- Reminding employees to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Overall, employers are responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns and informing their employees of the hazards in the workplace. The CDC guidance provides general business practices that can be modified or supplemented to meet the specific needs of your workplace.
The Coronavirus Task Force at Klehr Harrison stands ready to assist you in your business and legal needs. We will continue to provide additional information and guidance as the COVID-19 situation develops.
Co-authors Jonathan Krause, partner and Stephanie Grey, associate are members of the Litigation Department at Klehr Harrison.