As more and more organizations bring employees back on-site, including those that always kept employees on-site, we must continue to be aware of COVID-19 and what it means for employers and employees as the economy picks back up. In particular, employers still have an obligation under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide a safe working environment. What this means in the context of COVID-19 will depend on your workplace and the specific risks involved in conducting business there.
In general, as part of keeping the workplace safe, most employers are providing some form of workplace modification and/or personal protective equipment (PPE) for employees, along with training on how to use it.
COVID-19 Training: Tips for Employers
Here are some tips for implementing training related to COVID-19:
- Train employees on facts about the virus, its signs and symptoms, how it spreads, and what can be done to reduce the risk of transmission.
- Train employees on your organization’s protocols to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. Employees should understand their obligations, as well as what the employer is doing to reduce the risk of transmission. This may include:
- Hand-washing guidelines;
- Mask requirements;
- Temperature check requirements;
- Enhanced cleaning procedures and/or work space sanitization requirements;
- What to do if you feel ill at work (and guidance on not coming into the workplace if you feel ill);
- What time off options are available if you need to stay home because you feel ill or are caring for an ill loved one;
- Reminders not to touch your face;
- Social distancing guidelines;
- Any other illness-screening requirements for employees to complete;
- What PPE is required while on the job and how to use and care for it correctly; and
- Location of hand sanitizer and all cleaning products available for employee use.
- Employees should also understand:
- Whom to go to or what to do if they suspect they or another employee may have symptoms of COVID-19;
- Where to report unsafe working conditions related to the virus;
- What the requirements are when they’re allowed to return to in-person work after being exposed to COVID-19 or after showing possible symptoms;
- Where they can get tested for the virus; and
- What they are required to do from the employer’s perspective if they test positive for COVID-19, even if they aren’t showing active symptoms.
- There may be training that is not COVID-19-specific but that’s still needed, such as training on new processes or software.
Here are some additional considerations:
- Some states require employers to have COVID-19 prevention plans in place, while others require specific COVID-19-related training. Employers should look up their state’s requirements and augment the ideas above with any state-mandated training.
- Each of the training areas above may have sub-components. For example, if multiple types of PPE are required in your workplace, there may be different types of training required to ensure everyone knows how to use each component effectively.
- Separate from training, employers should consider whether there are additional steps that can or should be taken to reduce risks for employees. We’ve been in this for over a year now, but it’s not too late to reassess and update safety measures.
These are some ideas for consideration, but every employer needs to evaluate its own situation and determine which of the above items are truly necessary and which are required because of its circumstances.