During the Covid-19 pandemic, worker protection is one of the essential ways to protect public health. Business owners must develop protocols that employees and customers can follow to protect themselves from the virus. Protection is essential for all essential workers – from healthcare workers to emergency responders, supermarket/grocery workers, delivery workers, pharmaceutical workers, factory workers, sanitation workers, and others.
The business owner is responsible for providing protective equipment, such as face masks, gloves, and sanitation equipment. This begs the question: Can your workers report you if you lack sanitary equipment for the crisis? What happens if you fail to supply protective equipment on time?
This post will analyze worker laws and regulations imposed by agencies such as OSHA. First off, there are different requirements for different industries. Certain “high risk” industries, where employees are exposed to a higher risk of infection, require extra protection. This includes respirator masks such as the N95 or DittoMask. All healthcare workers and emergency responders are encouraged to wear those masks. Other “high-risk” professions include retail/service, grocery store workers, home care workers, law enforcement workers, and meat processing workers.
How To Protect Your Employees
Business owners are encouraged to instruct your employees on social distancing or working remotely for the duration of the pandemic. There are also measures to prevent infections in the workplace. The most common measure is to purchase face masks in bulk and distribute them to employees daily. It’s also recommended to purchase disposable gloves.
There is the option to purchase “cheap” surgical masks which last for the duration of the day and cost $0.5-1/mask, or more expensive reusable respirator masks and provide higher filtration at an additional cost.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Covid-19 spreads through droplets that people release by coughing or sneezing. Evidence exists that speaking releases thousands of small droplets which are invisible to the naked eye and can also be infectious. Instruct your employees to wear masks and stop touching their faces or mask while they’re wearing them.
Can Workers Report You For Not Proving Masks?
The answer: Yes. Workers can report you, but this doesn’t mean that any agencies are going to enforce rules or punish you. Whether you choose to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for your employees or not is entirely up to you. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) for worker protection has not issued any practices or policies that force employers to provide protective equipment. It is entirely on a voluntary basis.
Moreover, OHSA is not carrying out any inspections or addressing personal pleas when workers report their employers for not enforcing rules in the workplace. Nonetheless, it’s still a smart choice to invest in basic protection for your employees in order to minimize the impact of the virus in your business.
Guidelines released by OHSA and the CDC, in regards to worker protection, only serve as advisory guides and do not include any sections which specifically mention fines for not supplying workers with PPE. Use these guidelines for advisory purposes, and the business owners should determine whether they want to follow the guidelines or ignore them.
Due to the fact there is a lack of enforcement; business owners will not be held liable for failing to supply their workers with adequate protection. It is up to business owners to determine whether their employees should wear masks or whether they can be exempt from wearing a mask.
As a business owner, you will be safe from legal prosecution in the event you fail to supply workers with PPE. Business owners are not held liable even if an employee ends up reporting them to OSHA and CDC. They have complete freedom to dictate their own Covid-19 policies and it’s up to them to make mask-wearing compulsory or voluntary at their business establishment.