Appropriate Workplace Precautions After an Outbreak

By June 15, 2020 June 16th, 2020 News

Businesses who have lost productivity or been forced to cease operations due to a positive COVID-19 test among their employees are going to be particularly cautious about return to work procedures and protocols for receiving guests. Employees, vendors, customers and guests may find themselves faced with seemingly arduous requirements. While it is far from our position to tell you how much is enough, as each individual situation is unique, there are some practical realities worth considering before you implement and roll out a plan.

Is it reasonable to require a negative COVID-19 test result?

Testing conducted in March sometimes took 14 days for a result. We’re fortunate that most test results are now available in 2 business days but what does that really tell us? A negative test result on Wednesday essentially indicates that the employee was negative on Monday when the sample was taken. That same employee may have participated in protests on Monday night and gone to a pool party on Tuesday night and by the time test results appear on Wednesday, they are completely voided by subsequent activities. As such requiring a negative test result for employees or vendors who weren’t previously positive is not helpful information and gives a false sense of security.

Is it reasonable to measure body temperatures?

Checking the temperature of guests and workers as they enter your business gives you an immediate though not thorough snapshot of the health of an individual and has been deemed a generally accepted practice by healthcare facilities and a myriad of other workplaces. Touchless thermometers are non-intrusive and can be operated by most any staff without any physical contact and results can be kept confidential between the test administrator and the guest.

Is it reasonable to require masks or other PPE?

Requiring workers who cannot maintain social distance guidelines to wear a mask – and providing masks for those workers – is increasingly becoming an accepted business practice. Making masks and gloves readily available and publishing guidelines for social distancing as well as business practices for cleaning procedures communicates to customers, vendors and employees that you care and connotes a sense of responsibility and accountability for maintaining a healthy work environment.

Is it reasonable to refuse to comply?

Ultimately each business owner is going to have to make decisions about their workplace and the protocols they will not only implement for their site but support when employees visit another’s work site. And if a customer is compelling your staff to provide a negative COVID-19 test result or wear PPE before they can visit their business, you will need to assess the value of that customer relationship and the perceived risk of sending staff to their site in determining whether to comply or discontinue the business relationship.