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COVID in The Workplace: Employer Obligations During COVID-19
October 26, 2020
Are You Fulfilling Your Duty of Care During COVID-19?
COVID-19 has put workers' health and safety at the forefront of public concerns. When the pandemic hit, the unknown perils of COVID-19 caused mass shutdowns of workplaces, with employers scrambling to find ways to bring back employees and restart the economy safely.
Many employers are likely pondering the possible legal ramifications of bringing a workforce back to the job site in the midst of the pandemic, including the potential consequences of an employee falling ill. Even during a pandemic, an employer must still meet their duty of care obligations, or they could be left with a long list of HR and legal troubles. With the proper planning and assistance, employers can focus on safety and put a business back on the road to recovery.
Duty of Care Defined in Canada and the United States
In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Act protects employees from harm while at work. Employers are responsible for their workforce, and if a worker becomes infected with COVID-19, the employer is likely to face legal trouble for negligence.
Specifically, Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act in which employers should be most concerned about, where it outlines that employers must offer workers a space that is “free from recognized hazards… which would likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
Canada has similar laws in place to help protect workers. In fact, the Canadian Public Health Association provides a free duty of care checklist for all employers and outlines in great detail an employer's “responsibility and legal obligation of a person or organization to avoid acts or omissions that could likely cause harm to others."
Make Simple Modifications to Your Workforce
For an employer hoping to bring their workforce back, radical changes are likely needed to ensure that employees remain safe on the job site during the pandemic. Ontario Public Health has released a detailed FAQ section to help employers fulfill their duty of care, shedding some light on the nature of COVID-19, how it’s transmitted, and some simple efforts that can help prevent it from spreading.
They suggest enhanced air ventilation, regular maintenance of HVAC systems, encouraging screening tools, instructing employees to isolate if they are sick, increased hand hygiene, and regular disinfection. They also detail the importance of ventilation with outdoor air and not recycled air, opening windows, or creating outdoor workplaces.
Take the Next Step and Ensure Your Business Recovers with AFIMAC
Today employers are being challenged on their ability to maintain their operations and productivity while keeping large workforces safe and healthy. AFIMAC specializes in ensuring an employer fulfills their duty of care obligations in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. AFIMAC can offer guidance and tools for any workplace, including digital screening tools that can protect a workforce from an employee that has contracted the virus.
Pandemic business continuity services give employers the unique ability to control access, screen individuals entering the job site while aiding in the procurements of personal protective equipment. Our workforce management tool PAM™ (Pandemic Application Management), gives you the ability to protect yourself, your business, and your workforce.
Learn more about the available tools provided by AFIMAC.