Coronavirus Pandemic Protection in the Workplace: How Can Employers Keep Workers Safe?
Under the shelter-in-place order put in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Michigan, restrictions were placed on who can and cannot be legally obligated to report to work in person. While some types of workers who are considered non-essential have either been laid off, furloughed, or have been temporarily working remotely, those who are considered essential, such as grocery store employees and healthcare workers, are still able to report to work in person.
More than ever before, it’s crucial that everyone take steps to protect the health and safety of themselves and the rest of the general public. And that includes employers who have businesses that are considered essential during Michigan’s lockdown. Even during a pandemic, it’s still important that employees are able to do their jobs as safely as possible, without having to unnecessarily expose themselves to known hazards. Once stay-at-home restrictions begin to be lifted, coronavirus protection will remain a priority for months to come.
Given that we know COVID-19 can be spread through respiratory droplets or, in some cases, by coming in contact with surfaces that have been touched by those droplets, a simple way employers can help their employees stay safe is by providing protective gear like face masks and gloves, routinely cleaning work areas, and providing ample hand sanitizer. If, for example, an employer refused to allow employees to wear face masks while working, it could potentially be considered an OSHA violation.
It’s also important that employers try to support appropriate social distancing measures. In some cases, people may work for an essential business, but have jobs that could be done from home. In a case like that, it’s a very good idea to allow them to do so as long as reasonably possible as a means of encouraging social distancing. The CDC and OSHA have both provided guidance for employers in response to COVID-19.
If employees feel unsafe because their employer isn’t following proper safety guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus, one thing they can do is contact the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MiOSHA). According to an article by the Detroit Free Press, 800 out of 900 complaints filed with MiOSHA in March 2020 were related to COVID-19 or the stay-at-home order. Remember that if you file a safety complaint against your employer, it is illegal for employers to take retaliatory actions like firing or demoting you.
At a time like this, employers cutting corners on safety could potentially have devastating consequences. If you’ve been harmed by an employer failing to follow recommended safety guidelines, don’t hesitate to contact an unsafe workplace lawyer. A lawyer will be able to help you understand how the law applies to your unique situation. At Goodwin & Scieszka, we’ve helped many Michigan workers who have been injured in the workplace. Contact us today for help with your case.
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