Firm News

Reopening Update: What Employers Need to Know

By Amy Kearney
Attorney at McGuire, Craddock & Strother, P.C.
June 24, 2020

On June 18, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued guidance to assist both employers reopening non-essential businesses and their employees returning to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The full text of the guidance can be found at the following link:  https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA4045.pdf.

Summary of the OSHA Guidance

The OSHA guidance provides general principles for updating restrictions that were originally put in place in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.  During each phase of the reopening process, employers should continue to focus on developing and adhering to strategies that will contribute to a safer workplace, such as the following:

Guiding Principle Suggested Strategies to Implement and Key Considerations
Hazard Assessment • Determine which job tasks or job categories involve occupational exposure.
• Consider exposures from members of the public (e.g., customers and visitors) with whom employees may interact, as well as exposures from close contact with coworkers in the workplace.
• Consider current outbreak conditions in the community.
Hygiene Practices • Provide soap, water, and paper towels for employees, customers, and visitors to wash their hands, and encourage frequent and proper handwashing.
• Provide hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and encourage employees to use it frequently when they cannot readily wash their hands.
• Identify high-traffic areas and frequently touched surfaces and target them for enhanced cleaning and disinfection.
Social Distancing • Limit business occupancy to a number of employees and customers that can safely be accommodated to allow for social distancing.
• Demarcate flooring in six-foot zones in frequently visited areas like restrooms and check-out lines to encourage people to keep appropriate social distance between themselves and others.
• Post signage reminding employees, customers, and visitors to maintain at least six feet between one another.
• Post directional signs in hallways and corridors where the width restricts movement and limits social distancing.
Identification and Isolation of Sick Employees • Ask employees to evaluate themselves for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 before coming to work and to stay home if they are not well.
• Establish a protocol for managing people who become ill in the workplace, including details about how and where a sick person will be isolated, and cleaning and disinfecting spaces the ill person has occupied to prevent exposure to others.
Return to Work After Illness or Exposure • Follow CDC guidance for discontinuing self-isolation and returning to work after illness, as appropriate for the workplace.
• Ensure employees who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 routinely monitor themselves or receive monitoring.
Controls • Select and implement appropriate engineering controls (e.g., physical barriers or shield to separate workers, enhanced ventilation) and administrative controls (e.g., staggering work shifts, limiting breakroom capacity, practicing social distancing) and providing and ensuring employees use appropriate PPE.
Workplace Flexibilities • Evaluate existing policies and consider new ones that facilitate appropriate uses of telework, sick or other types of leave, and other options that help minimize employees’ exposure risks.
• Ensure employees understand how to make use of available workplace flexibility options.
Training • Train employees about their risks of exposure to COVID-19, what their employer is doing to protect them, and how they can protect themselves.
• Train employees about wearing cloth face coverings in the workplace.
• Train employees on how to put on, use, and take off PPE; how to clean, maintain, store, and dispose of PPE; and what the limitations of PPE are (for those employees whose jobs require the use of PPE).
Anti-Retaliation • Ensure employees understand their rights to a safe and healthful work environment, who to contact with questions or concerns about workplace safety and health, and prohibitions against retaliation for raising workplace safety and health concerns.
• Ensure employees understand their right to raise workplace safety and health concerns and seek an OSHA inspection.
• Ensure supervisors are familiar with workplace flexibilities and other human resources, policies, and procedures, as well as with employee’s rights in general.

The OSHA guidance also includes detailed answers to several frequently asked questions, such as whether employers may conduct worksite COVID-19 testing and general temperature or other health screenings (the answer is yes, as long as such tests are applied in a transparent manner applicable to all employees).

Additional Considerations for Employers in Dallas County

Employers should continue to be flexible in their use of remote work and alternative business operations, and should continually monitor guidelines and recommendations provided by federal, state, and local governmental agencies.  For employers located in Dallas County, that includes staying up-to-date with the latest local orders promulgated by Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.  One such order was released on June 19, 2020, and may be read in full here: https://www.dallascounty.org/Assets/uploads/docs/covid-19/orders-media/061920-Amended-SupplementalOrderonContinuingRequirements.pdf This order provides that, from June 19, 2020 through August 4, 2020 (unless otherwise modified or extended), all commercial businesses in Dallas County providing goods or services directly to the public must develop and implement a health and safety policy.  The policy must require, at a minimum, that all employees and visitors of the commercial business must wear face coverings (provided, however, that there are certain exceptions to this rule, such as when visitors are consuming food or drink beverages).  Commercial businesses must post the policy in a conspicuous location that is sufficient to provide notice to employees and visitors of all health and safety requirements.  Failure to develop and implement the health and safety policy required by the order on or before June 24, 2020 may result in a fine to the business of $500 for each violation.  Employers who do business in Dallas County should consider visiting Dallas County’s COVID-19 website frequently to stay informed with the most recent updates and information.  Dallas County’s COVID-19 website is available here: https://www.dallascounty.org/covid-19/.

For more information or for advice on whether and how a specific business should reopen, please contact Amy Kearney at [email protected].