April 28th, 2020 | Updated on June 28th, 2022
As coronavirus lockdowns are lifted in a number of states and businesses across the U.S. begin to reopen, workplace safety is at the top of everyone’s mind.
While federal guidelines state health care providers must follow set safety protocols to prevent spreading the virus, other businesses don’t share this same obligation.
As a result, states are setting standards and sick employees seeking damages through workers’ compensation are left with the tough task of proving they contracted the virus at work.
1. Improving Workplace Health And Safety
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates employees create and maintain a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm”.
As such, OSHA is advising businesses to follow Center for Disease Control guidelines, which includes: checking temperatures, social distancing, disinfecting surfaces, and providing face masks and anti-bacterial hand sanitizer.
Employers are implementing these health and safety guidelines in order to mitigate risk.
2. Proving Liability
If employees fall sick, they can use workers’ compensation to seek monetary damages while forfeiting the right to sue.
However, employees must be able to prove they contracted coronavirus at work, which is difficult since there’s a real possibility of becoming infected outside of work.
“A workers’ compensation case could be bolstered if a number of employees at a workplace came down with coronavirus”, explains employment lawyer, Jonathan Segal.
States like Illinois and Kentucky have recently started holding employers responsible for the burden of proof.
Now, these states operate with “the presumption that the workers that are essential caught the disease at work”. It’s then up to the company to demonstrate this isn’t the case.
3. Returning To Work After Coronavirus
Return to work programs can be used to effectively and efficiently get employees who’ve fallen ill with COVID-19 back to work again — and often sooner than expected.
RTW programs provide employees with support and allow them to start working again in a manner that’s tailored to their recovery process.
8They also reduce overall claims costs for the employer. Already, the government has set return-to-work guidelines for essential workers exposed to COVID-19.
Individual employees are advised to: check their temperature before work, always wear a mask, and practice social distancing in the workplace.
Protecting the health and safety of employees should be a priority during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the only way to stop the spread of the virus while moving the economy forward.