What Should Businesses Do To Re-Open Safely

Here are four ways in which businesses and business owners can protect the health and safety of their employees while also safeguarding their business from potential legal action.

I wanted to take a moment today to talk about business best practices as we begin to reopen businesses in the state of Texas.

Already there has been an increase in complaints made to OSHA and other regulatory agencies which I expect will be followed by lawsuits related to workplace safety issues caused by the coronavirus.

Here are four ways in which businesses and business owners can protect the health and safety of their employees while also safeguarding their business from potential legal action.

Taking Employee Temperatures

First, the most common practice that is easy to implement is taking temperatures at the beginning of shifts or whenever employees are walking into the building. This has been implemented without too much difficulty. Essentially, you could have a supervisor or human resource officer on site take the temperature of each employee entering the facility. In cases where there may be multiple people coming in for a shift, businesses have been staggering arrival times for those shifts.

Requiring Employees To Wear Masks

The second most common method of screening for COVID-19 symptoms, and perhaps the most difficult, has been the requirement or recommendation of wearing masks in the workplace. My observation has been that businesses that have a public facing aspect, such as retail and restaurants, have been in many cases more reticent to require employees to wear masks because the appearance may put customers on guard. That is contrasted, of course, to manufacturing plants and other businesses that are not customer facing.

Asking Employees To Wear Protective Gloves

The third method is the implementation of gloves. This has come into play in a variety of ways. Some businesses are requiring the employees to wear gloves at all times, some businesses are not requiring employees to wear gloves at all. It does seem like an easy way to ensure that your employees are not coming into contact with the virus and other pathogens that are being spread right now. 

The challenge is the expense associated with providing all of your employees gloves and masks. In addition, you probably have a duty to properly train employees how to properly use that type of protective equipment. If you fail to train them how to do it, it doesn’t county in the eyes of OSHA and other regulatory agencies.

Requiring Employees With Coronavirus Symptoms To Stay Home

The final method has been requiring employees to stay at home if they are exhibiting any symptoms related to the coronavirus. The reason this measure has been more difficult than others to apply, in my opinion, is that many employees are eager to come back and may not discuss feeling ill. Or, employees may not be exhibiting symptoms and still have the virus. From an employers perspective, enforcing this measure can be difficult - especially when trying to differentiate symptoms of an allergic reaction to those of COVID-19.

Whatever measures or methods you put into place to protect your customers and your workers, it is best practice to establish an official company policy and put all of your employees on formal notices that if they are showing any kind of a symptom, they should not not come into the workplace. Ideally, you would want to provide them with some sort of an incentive for doing that, but for many small businesses that may not be feasible. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what businesses should or can do to help stop the spread of COVID-19, or even address the legal issues associated with screening employees for the virus. Of course, there are so many variables at play right now. If you are an employer I truly recommend that you consult with an attorney and do your best to protect yourself from liability. You can contact our office at (972) 878-9105 to discuss how to approach your specific situation.

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