Ask Jade: July 2020
In this episode, WESOS Network’s Platinum Sponsor Jade Carpenter from www.Jadelawoffice.com, explains OSHA safety rules regarding employer’s responsibility to their employees. New information is discussed about COVID19 and your employee’s safety at work.
Welcome to another episode of “Ask Jade.”
In this episode I am going to go over some employer responsibilities when it comes to safety in the workplace.
If you have employees or are a business owner with people coming to your worksite or place of business, there safety-related things that you need to be aware of.
We all know about OSHA. They provide guidelines when it comes to safety. In general, they say you must provide a workplace that is free from serious recognized hazards and comply with OSHA. Essentially, recognized hazards are not hazards that you are unaware of, have not had a reason to know about, or have not been put on notice about for any reason. Recognized hazards are ones that you are aware of or should be aware of based on your business.
You must ensure your employees have safe and proper tools or equipment to effectively do their jobs. You need to post posters, labels or signs to warn employees of potential hazards. You need to establish or update operating procedures to communicate to your employees what they need to be doing to stay safe. Employers that use hazardous chemicals in the workplace must develop and implement written hazard communication programs and train employees on the hazards they are exposed to and take proper precaution. Some examples of businesses with recognized hazards include: A cleaning business may have hazardous chemicals that are used to clean. A mechanic shop, working with different oils and products that go into cars – those can be considered hazardous chemicals.
Here are some things to be aware of if you are an employer:
- You have to post in a prominent location within the workplace the OSHA Poster so employees are aware of their rights. The OSHA Poster is available for free at the OSHA website. If you don’t have one, you can get one.
- You also need to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Do note that employers with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from that requirement.
- You are not allowed to discriminate against employees for exercising their OSHA Rights.
- OSHA encourages employers to adopt a safety and health program.
Be aware of what your employee’s rights are. If you are also an employee somewhere or an independent contractor, know what your rights are under OSHA.
If you as an employee, believe that you are at risk of serious harm due to working conditions the first step is to talk to the employer. If they do not follow up, then put your concerns in writing by filing a complaint with OSHA.
You (or your employee) can refuse to work if all the following are true:
- You complained already about the dangerous condition and the employer refused to do anything about it.
- You are refusing work in good faith, meaning that you honestly believe there is some sort of imminent serious threat to your health and safety.
- A reasonable person in the same situation would agree that there is an immediate danger and because of the urgency, there isn’t time to wait for the unsafe condition to be corrected through the proper channels such as having OSHA come and complete some sort of investigation.
COVID Related Procedures
Of course, amid COVID, OSHA has updated procedures for employers to follow. I will go over those briefly.
You need to develop an infectious disease and preparedness response plan:
- Identify where, how, and what sources might expose your workers, such as the general public, customers, co-workers.
- Identify sick individuals with high-risk infections such as international travelers if you work near or around health care workers. Also be aware of workers with individual risk factors such as older age, chronic health conditions, even workers who might be pregnant.
- Prepare and implement basic infection prevention measures. Promote frequent hand washing including providing workers and customers and worksite visitors a place to wash their hands. If you do not have soap and running water available, then you need to have hand sanitizer available.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick. Encourage respiratory etiquette, such as covering coughs and sneezes.
- If possible, establish flexible worksites such as telecommuting flexible work hours such as staggering shifts and try to increase the distance between employees as much as possible.
- Maintain regular housekeeping – routine cleaning, disinfecting surfaces and equipment.
- Develop policies and procedures for prompt identification of sick people. Employers need to inform and encourage your employees to self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID.
- Develop policies for employees to report when they are sick and make them feel comfortable to be able to do that. Actively encourage employees who are sick or having symptoms to stay home, let them know and ensure that sick leave policies are flexible during this time. Do not require a doctor’s note, if an employee is sick. And maintain flexible policies to permit them to stay home if they are sick or to care for sick family members.
The big thing under the new OSHA Policies is that you are obligated to provide your employees or your workers with PPE needed to keep them safe while they are performing their job. The types of PPE required during COVID is based on the risk associated with them doing their job that could lead to exposure.
PPE is a requirement, and then of course just following the existing OSHA standards does get a bit more detailed and if you have questions, I am happy to help, and always reach out to an attorney for more information such as myself and I’ll talk to you next time!
The materials available at or within this website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact an attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.
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