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Jun 04
Returning to Work in the COVID-19 Environment

As states allow businesses to reopen, more guidelines and regulations are being put in place to help protect the health and safety of employees and customers. We have received questions on several aspects, especially face coverings, personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus screening.

1) Face coverings. While not a substitution for the need for social distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend most people wear cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19. To be most effective, face coverings should cover the person's nose and mouth and must be put on, worn and removed properly.

Many cities and states are mandating face coverings be provided for and worn by employees. Others are requiring customers to wear them as well, even allowing companies to refuse entry or service to customers who refuse.

Companies need to be prepared to require face coverings for employees, even if they have to purchase them, as well as for customers.

2) PPE. PPE covers a wide range of equipment used to protect workers from exposure to the hazards of their jobs. As related to COVID-19, PPE often includes face shields, goggles, N95 masks and gowns. Most businesses will not need to provide anything other than standard latex gloves to protect employees when they need to clean in the workplace.

3) COVID-19 screening. Employers have flexibility when it comes to testing employees for COVID-19. As employees return to work, companies need to consider what is best for them. Any screening method must be applied to all employees equally and consistently. Here are some options:

  • Taking employees' temporal temperature before each shift is the easiest and least invasive way but only screens for one symptom so it may not be effective. 
  • Asking established screening questions regarding other COVID-19 symptoms, such as coughing or sore throat, and possible exposure since they last worked, along with taking temperatures before each shift, provides a more effective picture of an employee's health while being minimally invasive or time-consuming.
  • Testing for COVID-19 and antibodies is an option, with recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allowing employers to require test results before returning, but this may not be practical as testing is not widely available, can be expensive and will not be fully effective as test results do not prevent future exposure or illness.

As you reopen your business, consider what practical steps you can take to help provide your employees with a healthy and safe workplace. Affinity HR has compiled a list of essential HR coronavirus resources. Visit Affinity HR Group online to learn more about HR policies and procedures.

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