Employers under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—basically anyone who employs more than ten workers—must now go into action the moment they find out an employee has become ill with COVID-19. The responsibility of the employer is first to determine whether the case is work-related by conducting what OSHA calls a “reasonable” investigation. Extensive medical inquiries aren’t necessary (and can actually infringe on privacy if done incorrectly). Instead, employers are expected to at least:
- Ask the employee how they believe they contracted the COVID-19 illness.
- While respecting employee privacy, discuss with the employee their work and out-of-work activities that may have led to the COVID-19 illness.
- Review the employee’s work environment for potential exposure.
Additional determination and recording-keeping responsibilities when it comes to IDing cases within the workplace are outlined here. But then what about contact tracing and notifying others in the workplace who may have been exposed? SHRM offers excellent resources and tips, including this article that outlines best practices.
Some basic tips:
- Exposure risk according to the CDC happens when someone is within 6 feet of an infected person, for 15 minutes or more, up to 48 hours before the infected person’s symptoms appeared. It’s called the 6-15-48 rule if you want a catchy way to remember it.
- Apps and electronic aids are helping some organizations stay on top of contact-tracing among employees. Businesses are using Salesforce’s Work.com contact tracing platform in 35 states, including Texas. These apps need to remain voluntary, with no negative consequences for those who chose not to use them.
- Send home those who had a reasonable risk of exposure if you can (under CDC guidelines, some essential employees can continue to work). Ask them to self-isolate for 14 days and check in with them during that time. If they develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 themselves, that 14-day period should restart.
The better you can monitor workplace cases, the faster Texas can get back to business. To do this, keep an eye on evolving OSHA, CDC, and Texas-specific contact tracing regulations. This CDC Frequently Asked Questions page is helpful as is SHRM’s Contact Tracing in the Workplace page.
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