Local business owners and employers can access Volusia County’s Division of Economic Development at www.FloridaBusiness.org to find updated interim guidance for helping to prevent workplace exposures to acute respiratory illness in non-healthcare settings, including the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The resources are provided by the Center for Disease and Prevention (CDC), the United States Department of Labor and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
OSHA published the “Guidance on Preparing a Workplace for COVID-19”, available for download at www.OSHA.gov. The “Classifying Worker Exposure” section describes the varying levels of risk during an outbreak. To help employers determine risk exposure levels, OSHA has divided job tasks into four risk exposure levels: low, medium, high and very high. According to the guide, most American workers will fall in the low or medium risk level.
Employers and workers in positions where there is no specific exposure hazard should remain aware of the evolving outbreak. According to the CDC, employers should implement the following strategies now: actively encourage sick employees to stay home, separate sick employees, emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees, perform routine environmental cleaning, advise employees before traveling to take certain steps and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment if employees are well, but have a sick family member at home.
If there is evidence of an outbreak in the United States, employers should plan to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity. It is recommended by the CDC that employers consider how best to stop the spread of acute respiratory illness and lower the impact of COVID-19. Some suggested planning considerations include: reducing transmission among staff, protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications, maintaining business operations and minimizing adverse effects on other entities in their supply chain.
The CDC encourages employers to ensure their plan is flexible and to involve employees in developing and reviewing the plan. One suggestion is to conduct a focused discussion or exercise using the plan to find out ahead of time whether there are gaps or problems needing corrected. It is recommended to share the plan with employees and explain human resource policies, workplace and leave flexibilities, and available pay and benefits. Lastly, share the plan with other businesses in the community, especially those working closely in the supply chain, chambers of commerce and associations to improve community response efforts.
Employers should check with their preferred attorney to answer frequently asked questions like taking an employee’s temperature, what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19, whether or not the employer has a responsibility to report a suspected case to the CDC and if an employee can refuse to come to work because of fear of infection.
Volusia residents, business owners, employers and visitors may access, www.Volusia.org/Public-Protection/Emergency-Management to access the “public information network”. Additional education resources can be found at www.FloridaHealth.gov under the “COVID-19 Toolkit”.