KPA has been providing COVID-19 state regulatory updates related to distancing orders (stay-at-home, etc.) and employment law changes (paid leave, unemployment benefits, etc.) and what employers may consider as they make decisions. We’re continuing to do that as each state reopens and businesses get back to work.
Each state will look a little different, but we have several similar recommendations for getting you and your employees back to work safely. Click on the map to dig deeper into state information and keep reading here for our recommendations.
Our guidance shouldn’t be interpreted as the only considerations your business should take into account in making decisions to return to work but as a starting point for your plan.
Our reporting focus is specific to states and not to counties or other local orders. There may be potential discrepancies between state and local orders. If you believe there may be a discrepancy affecting you or your business, you should contact your local government and/or competent local counsel for further advice.
We’ll keep this updated as much as we can but double-check with your local and state governments to ensure you’ve got the latest information – we’ve included some handy links within individual state regulatory updates.
Although the how and when of each state returning to a new kind of normal is to be determined, we’ve developed several recommendations for you to consider during the phases of state re-openings. As your state changes and eases restrictions, you’ll want to keep reviewing and evaluating each of these considerations and what restrictions can be eased within your business to uphold workplace safety.
Federal Guidance for Getting Your Business Back to Work
We can’t talk about state reopening plans without first considering the guidelines laid out by the federal government.
The White House released an Opening Up America Again plan, that outlines a top-level approach to 3 phases of reopening. It includes guidelines for employers to develop and implement policies about monitoring workers for COVID-19 symptoms, social distancing, temperature checks, sanitation and protective gear, disinfecting highly trafficked areas, and business travel.
In March, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also released Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, which employers may find helpful. The information isn’t considered a regulatory requirement but has a lot of useful information. Employers must continue to comply with current OSHA or OSHA state-approved plan requirements.
How to Plan for States’ Reopening
Determine how best your business should respond to your state’s business operations guidance or Minimum Basic Operations guidelines, and workplace safety requirements:
Review your facility layout, your current employee count, and potential capacity for visitors/customers to determine your procedures and policies about sanitation. Use the hierarchy of controls approach to ensure you’re minimizing exposure to COVID-19 and in case you need to respond to an OSHA inquiry.
Take a further look into the following:
- Sanitation (e.g., disinfectant, sanitizer, hand washing stations);
- Staggered shifts (if an option) and teleworking;
- Personal protective equipment (PPE);
- Shared workspaces and equipment;
- Hygiene signage and notices;
- Ensuring social distancing of at least 6 feet;
- Alternative break times and breakrooms to ensure social distancing;
- Temperature checks; and
- Business travel.
- Determine your occupancy limits and how your business may need to lower the limits to ensure social distancing of at least 6 feet or based on jurisdictional occupancy requirements.
- If it’s possible, depending on your business, consider whether a point of sale could be conducted outdoors. If you offer credit card payment transactions, check with the credit card companies your business accepts to see if there are any creative solutions to limit or exclude use of credit card PIN pads.
- Review and update your policy about group gatherings as needed, and to accommodate your state changes in its phased reopening.
- As you develop your reopening plan, consider what training courses your employees may need to review before coming back to work (e.g., PPE, handwashing, COVID-19, etc.).
- Check if your state has changed paid leave, retaliation, or any other employment protections, and be sure your plan is compliant with those changes.
- When you’ve developed a plan to respond to regulatory changes, always consult with your legal counsel to ensure it’s compliant with the federal and state rules.
- Build a communication strategy to implement these changes in your workforce.
- Build a strategy for how to implement temperature taking within your workforce. Consider everything from the logistics of thermometers, handling confidential information, and waiting in line, to compensation, hazards, PPE, and how to send employees home.
- Consult with legal counsel before implementing a temperature-taking program to ensure it complies with all federal and state laws.
- Treat temperature taking as medical information and ensure it is kept private and secure from other employees.
- For onsite employees, regularly check in with them about their health and possible symptoms of COVID-19.
- Remind and encourage employees that if they are experiencing any symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they should stay home.
- Review your current job offers and revise your onboarding process to include consistent screening for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Remember to start ordering supplies early, as they may run out quickly, which could prevent your business from opening or staying open.
How to Handle Personal Protective Equipment Mandates
As states reopen, several have begun releasing plans and guidance about masks or other cloth face coverings for customers and employees. If your business is in one of these states, determine if employers are mandated to provide masks or other face coverings. Ensure your employees have access to face coverings and that your policy continues to meet federal and state U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
Be sure to train your employees about proper face covering protocols (donning, doffing, cleaning, etc.) and refer them to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s resources for how to make their own face coverings.
If your facility is required to have employees wear respiratory protection you must follow OSHA regulations under 29 CFR 1910.134. Employees must be:
- Given medical evaluations for respirator use;
- Fit tested annually;
- Trained on the respirator use;
- Provided with a written respiratory program;
- Provided the NIOSH approved respirator along with cartridges if necessary;
- Put on a cartridge change out schedule determined by the employer; and
- OSHA has temporarily relaxed respirator guidelines during the pandemic to allow for a single person to reuse a respirator.
If your facility has acquired N95 respirators:
- You must follow OSHA regulations; and
- If the employee wears the N95 or a respirator of greater protection voluntarily, they must be given Appendix D to Sec. 1910.134 of the code of federal regulations.
Once you’ve evaluated and put together your back to work plan for your business, you also need to consider how to communicate the plan to your employees:
- Build a communication strategy to implement these changes in your workforce.
- Provide support to your employees during this time and make yourself available to answer their questions and concerns.
Each business’s response to getting back to work may look different but the core objectives are to keep you, your employees, and your customers as safe as possible. If you believe there may be a discrepancy affecting you or your business, you should contact your local government and/or competent local counsel for further advice.
Other Helpful Resources
- Coronavirus COVID-19
- Resources for Businesses and Employers
- Guidance for Cleaning & Disinfecting Public Spaces, Workplaces, Businesses, Schools, and Homes
- Interim Guidance for Implementing Safety Practices for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19