New Employer Safety Measures Ordered In Pennsylvania to Combat COVID-19
At 8:00 pm April 19, 2020, additional employer safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic will take effect in Pennsylvania, as ordered by Governor Tom Wolf. The April 15, 2020 order requires businesses authorized to maintain in-person operations, other than health care providers, to take additional safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including the following.
- Implementing cleaning protocols, as described in the order.
- Staggering work start and stop times for employees when practicable to prevent gatherings of large groups entering or leaving the premises at the same time;
- Providing sufficient space for employees to have breaks and meals while maintaining a social distance of 6 feet, while arranging seating to have employees facing forward and not across from each other in eating and break settings;
- Staggering employee break times to reduce the number of employees on break at any given time so that appropriate social distancing may be followed;
- Limiting persons in employee common areas (such as locker or break rooms, dining facilities, training or conference rooms) at any one time to the number of employees that can maintain a social distance of 6 feet;
- Conducting meetings and trainings virtually (i.e., by phone or through the internet), where at all possible. For in person meetings, limit the meeting to the fewest number of employees possible, not to exceed 10 employees at one time, and maintain a social distance of 6 feet;
- Providing employees with access to regular handwashing with soap, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes and ensuring that common areas are cleaned on a regular basis, including between any shifts;
- Providing masks for employees to wear during their time at the business and making it a mandatory requirement to wear masks while on the work site, except to the extent an employee is using break time to eat or drink;
- Ensuring that the facility has a sufficient number of employees to perform these measures effectively and in a manner that ensures the safety of the public and employees;
- Ensuring that the facility has a sufficient number of personnel to control access, maintain order, and enforce social distancing of at least 6 feet;
- Prohibiting non-essential visitors from entering the premises of the business; and
- Ensuring that all employees are made aware of these required procedures by communicating them, either orally or in writing, in their native or preferred language, as well as in English or by a methodology that allows them to understand.
In addition, businesses must establish protocols for execution upon discovery that the business has been exposed to a person who is a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, including:
- For cleaning and disinfecting of relevant areas, as described in the order;
- To identify employees that were in close contact (within about 6 feet for about 10 minutes) with a person with a probable or confirmed case of COVID-19 from the period 48 hours before symptom onset to the time at which the patient isolated.
- If the employee remains asymptomatic, the person should adhere to the CDC Guidance for Implementing Safety Practice for Critical Infrastructure Workers Who May Have Had Exposure to a Person with Suspected or Confirmed COVID-19;
- If the employee becomes sick during the workday, the person should be sent home immediately and surfaces in the employee’s workspace should be cleaned and disinfected.
- Information on other employees who had contact with the ill employee during the time the employee had symptoms and 48 hours prior to symptoms should be compiled. Others at the workplace with close contact within 6 feet of the employee during this time would be considered exposed; and
- Promptly notify employees who were close contacts of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the business premises, consistent with applicable confidentiality laws.
- Implement temperature screening before an employee enters the business, prior to the start of each shift or, for employees who do not work shifts, before the employee starts work, and send employees home that have an elevated temperature or fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Ensure employees practice social distancing while waiting to have temperatures screened;
- Employees who have symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath) should notify their supervisor and stay home; and
- Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until the CDC criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments. Employers are encouraged to implement liberal paid time off for employees who do not return to work as set forth above.
In addition to the above, businesses, other than health care providers, that serve the public must take additional safety steps for the safety of their customers. Those steps are detailed in the order.
Amy G. McAndrew, Esquire
Director of Legal and Compliance Services
MidAtlantic Employers’ Association
*This Alert is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.