The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has been swamped with thousands of complaints from workers in essential industries alleging unsafe conditions arising from COVID-19 safety issues. These safety complaints include:
- Lack of proper basic personal protective equipment or PPE
- Lack of proper social distancing or physical distancing
- Failure to proactively protect workers from workplace coronavirus contamination
- Failure to properly remediate possible COVID-19 contamination in a timely manner
Lack of Proper Basic Personal Protective Equipment or PPE
One of the two most frequently occurring complaints to OSHA from workers during the COVID-19 pandemic is the failure of workers to provide proper personal protective equipment or PPE. The news media has been replete with reports about a shortage of certain types of personal protective equipment. Specifically, there has been a persistent shortage of masks (particularly n95 masks) and gloves.
The fact that masks and gloves have been in short supply doesn’t relieve an employer of its duty to ensure that a worker is properly protected when in the workplace. Rather than have workers engaged in employment activities without proper PPE, an employer has to come up with a different scheme to attempt to accomplish objectives while ensuring that every worker has suitable PPE at all relevant times.
Lack of Proper Social Distancing or Physical Distancing
The second most commonplace complaint lodged from workers during this phase of the COVID-19 pandemic centers on the failure of employers to ensure proper social distance or physician distance spacing in the workplace. This includes proper distancing between coworkers but also appropriate distancing between workers and customers or clients.
In most situations, issues regarding social distancing have been a bit easier for employers to remediate than has been the case with PPE issues. For example, grocery stores have taken steps that include limiting the number of patrons that can be inside a market at one time to setting up customer flow pathways inside an establishment (including where to stand when waiting for service or assistance).
Failure to Proactively Protect Workers From Workplace Coronavirus Contamination
As more information has developed about COVID-19, including about how it spreads and ways in which it can be contained, the duty of employers in regard to protecting their workers is becoming clearer. In this regard, businesses of different types have the legal obligation to undertake affirmative steps to proactively protect workers from workplace coronavirus contamination.
COVID-19 is now known to spread through two common pathways, First, COVID-19 spreads through person to person contact. Second, the novel coronavirus also spreads when people (including workers) come into contact with surfaces or objects contaminated with COVID-19 in the workplace. Another type of complaint lodged by workers is that employers are not taking legally reasonable steps to preemptively or proactively protect workplaces against COVID-19 contamination.
Complaints are now reaching OSHA contending that employers aren’t taking proactive steps to reasonably protect against COVID-19 contamination in the first place. While an employer will never be legally required to ensure that a workplace is 100% safe, an employer does have a legal duty to take all reasonable steps to keep a workplace safe. As was noted previously, this includes taking reasonable action to prevent or protect against COVID-contamination in a work environment.
As this legal duty has developed, the need to seek professional assistance from a COVID-19 cleaning company has become more apparent. In other words, a business may find itself with a legal obligation to engage professional assistance to develop a comprehensive preemptive strategy to keep a workplace free of COVID-19 contamination as much as is reasonably possible.
At this time, what an employer must and must not do is an evolving matter. With that said, when it comes to preemptive strategies to ensure a workplace is reasonably safe from COVID-19 contamination, seeking professional assistance in this regard ultimately is likely to be deemed a necessary practice.
Failure to Properly Remediate a Possible COVID-19 Contamination in a Timely Manner
Another focus of COVID-19 related complaints from workers to OSHA centers on alleged failures of employers to properly remediate possible coronavirus contamination in a workplace. What is abundantly clear is that if an employer believes that a workplace may have some level of COVID-19 contamination, the employer must take immediate steps to eradicate the virus from the premises. Typically, this necessitates retaining the services of a coronavirus cleaning and disinfection professional.
Workspace COVID-19 cleaning and contamination is advisable when it becomes apparent that someone who ends up diagnosed with a coronavirus was in the premises. For example, retailers are beginning to make it a practice to hire a professional COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection company when a worker or patron is diagnosed as having a coronavirus infection and has been at the premises.