The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week published a checklist for agricultural employers to use to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19. The checklist, developed by the CDC and the U.S. Department of Labor assists employers with applying specific preparation, prevention and management measures on their operation.
The checklist is broken into five sections:
• Section 1: Assessment
• Section 2: Control Plan based on the Hierarchy of Controls
» Screening and Monitoring Workers
» Managing Sick Workers
» Addressing Return to Work after Worker Exposure to COVID-19
» Engineering Controls
» Cleaning, Disinfection, and Sanitation
» Administrative Controls
» Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
• Section 3: Special Considerations for Shared Housing
• Section 4: Special Considerations for Shared Transportation
• Section 5: Special Considerations for Children
Employers can use the list to reassess, update, and modify your assessment and control plan on a regular basis or as conditions change.
Eric Conn, founding partner at law firm Conn Maciel Carey LLP and chair of its chair OSHA workplace safety group, says employers should be aware that OSHA has not released standards specific to workplace safety and COVID-19. However, the agency is using the general duty clause as an enforcement tool.
Here are Conn’s top three reasons every employer should have a single COVID exposure control/response plan in writing:
1. Your employees are scared. Having a written plan gives them comfort and abates the incredible amount of angst right now. It demonstrates to your team that you’ve taken your response seriously and put a lot of thought into it.
2. It helps in your dealings with OSHA. By having a documented plan, it shows the agency the steps you have taken, and it can help defend actions you’ve taken.
3. We are on the verge of seeing a tidal wave of litigation. Conn expects more wrongful death, personal injury suits, and more litigation about employee’s and their family members becoming sick. Having a good, effective and coherent action plan will buy your outline for a defense.
“Having a written exposure plan, it’s just like lock out/tag out or an emergency action plan,” he says.
Conn shared his insights into the OSHA guidance and workplace health and safety issues during a webinar hosted by the National Grain and Feed Association and Grain Journal. He says the developing regulations around workplace health and safety issues and COVID-19 has been akin to “building the car while driving down the highway.”