Safety in the workplace is an employer’s first responsibility, an obligation highlighted by the pandemic. As summer draws to a close, the steady surge of COVID cases caused by the delta variant has employers doubling down on measures proven to curb the virus’s spread. Recent guidance released by both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration give employers clarity about these measures.
To safeguard your workforce, consider implementing these four precautions:
- Require masks: Both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees should wear masks indoors.
- Implement social distancing, rotating schedules or telework options when possible: Reduce on-site personnel by creating remote work policies if your industry can be adapted to home settings. Not all jobs can be done remotely, so consider staggering shifts. At both office and off-site gatherings, make social distancing part of your daily routine.
- Isolate employees who test positive from co-workers: Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 –vaccinated or not – should isolate for at least 10 days from symptom onset, if asymptomatic, from the date of the positive test. To end isolation, an individual must have gone at least 24 hours without a fever (with no use of fever-reducing medications) and see signs of improvement in other symptoms.
- Observe quarantine for exposure: If an unvaccinated individual comes into close contact with someone who has COVID-19, the individual optimally should remain home for 14 days and should watch for symptoms of COVID. “Close contact” means sharing space within 6 feet of another person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Per the CDC, quarantine can be shortened after Day 10 without testing or after the seventh day with a negative test result if the test occurred on Day Five or later. A fully vaccinated individual with a close contact should get tested three to five days after the exposure, even if the individual does not have symptoms. The CDC also recommends mask use for at least 14 days or until their test result is negative.
Beyond workplace safety, compliance with this regulatory guidance is particularly important for Oklahoma businesses, as compliance can provide a shield from liability related to any claim of injury brought by customers or other third parties due to exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19 on the premises.
Coordinate with your human resources team and clarify expectations for all employees in writing. Getting past COVID-19 takes everyone working together at this critical time, for optimal safety in the workplace and beyond.
Michael W. Bowling is an attorney with Crowe & Dunlevy, crowedunlevy.com, and a member of the Labor & Employment Practice Group.