Workplace safety in the reopened economy

With cases of COVID-19 on the decline in the United States, federal, state, and local governments have begun to ease the various restrictions currently in place, with an eye to reopening the economy. Business owners must prepare for this reopening and understand that the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects, have not disappeared. The threat of a resurgence of COVID-19 remains a stark possibility, and everyone, including business owners and their workers, must do their part to prevent that possible resurgence. In order to help business owners acclimate to this new reality, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has provided non-binding guidance on how business owners can protect the workers on the job and the customers and clients that come through their doors.

Some of the guidance is already quite familiar to most of us. When practicable, keeping at least 6 feet apart from other people is still the go-to rule. Of course, in some workplace settings, this is not always an option. Workers should be encouraged to continue avoiding physical contact with one another and with their customers and clients. Additionally, everyone should continue the practice of covering coughs and sneezes. 

Not only should workers avoid physical contact with other people, but they should also be encouraged to avoid using other workers’ phones, desks, and equipment. If workers must share equipment, the best practice is to wipe down the equipment before and after use. Business owners should also ensure that routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces continue. Business owners should also promote frequent and thorough hand washing by their workers.  Baked into these recommendations is the understanding that it is the business owner who should provide the necessary soap, water, and other cleaners to their workers.

Finally, the return to the physical workplaces means that the use of Zoom conference meetings will likely be reduced or completely replaced with in-person meetings. Any in-person meetings should be kept as brief as possible and the number of people at these meetings should be kept as low as possible.

Business owners and their workers are key to preventing the resurgence of COVID-19 and should take this responsibility to heart. As with all things related to workplace culture, this responsibility starts at the top. Business owners should clearly communicate to their workers the importance of taking the necessary precautions. Taking these precautions once the economy is reopened will not only help keep the economy open, but, more importantly, it will help keep people safe.

Luke D. Whetstone | attorney at Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway, A Professional Law Corporation. 

 This article is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.