Advocacy group details best practices for protecting essential workers
San Diego — The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has published a list of best practices intended to “enhance workplace safety” for essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the top of the list – “drawn from experience during this and other infectious disease outbreaks,” the advocacy group states – is a call for employers to develop a written plan for protecting workers. With input from employees, plans should include:
- An outline of areas and tasks that might expose workers to the coronavirus
- Comprehensive worker training
- An exposure control plan and protocol to follow during a worst-case scenario
Further, employers should implement and monitor the effectiveness of various hazard control measures, such as:
- Using physical barriers to keep workers at least 6 feet from each other at all times
- Adjusting work and break schedules to limit personal contact
- Considering new or modified procedures and equipment
- Limiting the use of shared tools and scheduling regular decontamination should sharing occur
- Providing handwashing stations with water, soap and clean towels, as well as hand sanitizer stations
- Providing necessary personal protective equipment, training and fit testing at no cost to workers
Additionally, employers should ensure workers can report hazards and illnesses, as well as take paid time off, without being penalized. Workplaces are advised to provide access to testing and support for employees affected by COVID-19.
Other recommendations include establishing a workplace health and safety committee on which “no more management representatives than worker representatives” serve, as well as providing supplemental pay to all essential workers “for their sacrifices made to keep the community safe and healthy” during the crisis.
“COVID-19 is highly contagious and represents a deadly hazard in the workplace,” Peter Dooley, safety and health senior project coordinator at National COSH, said in an April 17 press release. “Like other hazards, the best way to confront it is to involve workers in planning, training and implementing safety controls.”