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CORONAVIRUS - Prevention for Workplaces

How did the coronavirus start? The virus appears to have originated from a Wuhan seafood market where wild animals, including marmots, birds, rabbits, bats and snakes, are traded illegally. Coronaviruses are known to jump from animals to humans, so it’s thought that the first people infected with the disease – a group primarily made up of stallholders from the seafood market – contracted it from contact with animals.


1. Preparation & Communication

While some large, multi-national corporations have developed crisis-management guidelines to deal with natural disasters or pandemics, many smaller companies haven’t had that luxury.

Employers should be sure to convey accurate information to the workforce, including preventative measures that employees can implement on their own.

Beyond that, employers should think about (though not implement as of yet) what plans may be if this outbreak becomes more widespread and more serious.

Will you allow for telecommuting?Is your infrastructure set up so that you have the capability to telecommute?Will you implement special leave policies to prevent employees from infecting others in the workplace?

You don’t need answers to all these questions, yet but you should start to anticipate what those questions may be.


2. Addressing Day-To-Day Issues — The sick employee or the closed school

If and when the coronavirus becomes more prevalent in the community, specific employers may be impacted directly.

Employers may have more practical considerations, though, that they will need to deal with.For example, if an employee’s child becomes ill, can that employee take FMLA leave (probably, though review your policies)?

If the employee is sick, can you ask that employee to stay home or work from home during the length of the illness?

But a tougher question comes up if schools close. What then?


3. Providing a Reasonably Safe Workplace

Employers whose employees have a significant amount of interaction with the public may have different obligations from those employers whose employees are more office based with minimal interaction with the public.


OSHA’s guidance on pandemics is available here


What does OSHA believe employers should do in case of a pandemic?

According to OSHA, employers should ensure that their workers understand:

Differences between seasonal epidemics and worldwide pandemic disease outbreaks;Which job activities may put them at risk for exposure to sources of infection;What options may be available for working remotely, or utilizing an employer’s flexible leave policy when they are sick;Social distancing strategies, including avoiding close physical contact (e.g., shaking hands) and large gatherings of people;Good hygiene and appropriate disinfection procedures;What personal protective equipment (PPE) is available, and how to wear, use, clean and store it properly;What medical services (e.g., vaccination, post-exposure medication) may be available to them; andHow supervisors will provide updated pandemic-related communications, and where to direct their questions.

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