Coronavirus and the Workplace: Resources for Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities during a Pandemic

May 15, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on many businesses across the country. If you run a business or organization, you’re likely dealing with a lot right now, including doing all that you can to keep your employees safe and healthy. The GPO Bookstore offers resources that can help you out, providing recommended steps to ensure your employees maintain their health during this uncertain time.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has prepared a Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID–19. In it, employers can find steps for reducing workers’ risk of exposure. These include developing an infectious disease preparedness and response plan, developing policies and procedures for prompt identification of sick people, and recognizing the best methods for communicating with employees.

This booklet will help you determine just how at-risk your employees are and what you can do to protect them from being exposed to the virus. It offers guidance on safe work practices. For example, employers should provide emergency responders and other essential personnel with alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol. It also covers what kinds of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) employees should be wearing. Finally, it provides information on guidance for workers living and traveling abroad.

You may be familiar with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA Act), which was passed to prevent workers from being killed or otherwise harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers, including coronavirus. Brush up on what is required of you with this next resource.

Workers’ Rights from OSHA describes employer responsibilities, what OSHA covers, employees’ right to a safe and healthful workplace, how to contact OSHA, and more. This booklet explains workers’ rights to file confidential complaints with OSHA, review records of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace, receive copies of their workplace medical records, and more. It also provides specific instructions on how to file a complaint, which can be done through the mail, online, or by telephone.

In addition to covering workers’ rights, the booklet details employer responsibilities such as prominently displaying the official OSHA poster, informing workers about hazards, keeping accurate records of work-related injuries, and much more. If you are an employer, check out this handbook to know what’s required of you. Some examples include requirements to provide fall protection, prevent exposure to high levels of noise, and prevent exposure to harmful levels of substances like asbestos and lead.

OSHA covers most private sector employers and employees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions. Employees who work for state and local governments are not covered by Federal OSHA. But they do have OSH Act protections if they work in those states that have an OSHA-approved state plan. Read through the booklet to see if your state or territory has an OSHA-approved program. Federal employees who aren’t sure of their rights should also read the booklet. Finally, this resource outlines those who are not covered under the OSH Act, which includes people who are self-employed, immediate family members of farm employers, and more.

We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times.

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About the author: Blogger contributor Cat Goergen is the PR Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations office.

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