COVID-19 Small Business Resources

| Featured News, OSHA, USF Safety Florida

Written by: Adam Marty, PhD

Adam Marty, PhD
USF SafetyFlorida Consultant

January 2020 started with news of a novel disease in a country half way around the world.  This novel disease would become what is known as COVID-19.  Six months later, the United States has experienced over 1.8 million cases of COVID-19, over 100,000 fatalities attributed to the disease, led to stay-at-home orders, and shuttered non-essential businesses across the country.  Indeed, this new disease has impacted virtually every aspect of American life.

COVID-19 and public health have been a constant part of the news cycle since the outbreak began.  Social distancing has become a household term.  And wearing a face mask in public has become the norm.  The public health practices that have been implemented over the last few months have helped to turn the tide on the disease.  Disease rates have stabilized or declined in many parts of the country.  Many governors are beginning to lift their stay-at-home orders.

As businesses begin to re-open, it is important for companies to implement disease prevention measures aggressively so that re-opening America can be done safely.  Such measures could include establishing and implementing a COVID-19 prevention plan.  Although not specifically required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), implementing a COVID-19 prevention plan could be required under the OSHA general duty clause.  The OSHA general duty clause requires that each employer provide a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees.  Surely COVID-19 is a recognized hazard likely to cause serious physical harm to employees in many industries.  But establishing a prevention plan for a new, previously unrecognized disease may seem like a daunting task.  Fortunately there are resources available to assist a business in establishing a COVID-19 prevention plan.

Every business should be, or become, familiar with the OSHA 3990-03 2020 booklet Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”.  The document contains a wealth of information about COVID-19, how an outbreak could affect the workplace, and steps employers can take to reduce workers’ risk of exposure to the disease.  The steps include measures that all employers can take such as implementing basic infection prevention measures, developing policies and procedures for COVID-19, and implementing basic workplace controls.  The document is especially useful in that it provides an employer a means to classify their workers’ risk of exposure to the disease and also provides specific workplace controls based on that risk classification.  The OSHA booklet can serve as the basis for developing a workplace specific COVID-19 prevention plan.

Also, every business should be, or become, familiar with the OSHA safety and health topics on the dedicated COVID-19 webpage.  The webpage also has good information that can be used in developing a COVID-19 prevention plan.  The webpage contains OSHA “Alerts” that are industry-specific designed to keep workers safe.  The webpage provides guidance and resources for employers and workers on the control and prevention of COVID-19 in specific industries such as construction, dentistry, healthcare, and retail operations, to name a few.  An employer doing business within a listed industry would be wise to consider those industry specific control and prevention measures and incorporate them into their plan.  The webpage also has useful posters and videos in the “News and Updates” tab to assist with employee training.  Lastly, the webpage contains links to additional resources including worker training tools, webinars, and presentations about COVID-19.

Every business has a responsibility to take the precautions necessary to re-open America’s businesses safely.  Every business should first implement a COVID-19 prevention plan and then use the “Workplace Decision Tool” developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist in making re-opening decisions.  Taking the necessary precautions will minimize employees’ risk of exposure to the disease and keep workers, their families, and their friends safe and healthy.  Taking the necessary precautions will also reduce the chances of having painful re-instatements of stay-at-home orders due to an upswing in infection rates.

If your business needs assistance in developing a COVID-19 prevention plan or understanding what may be required by OSHA, the University of South Florida SafetyFlorida Consultation Program can provide free assistance.  USF SafetyFlorida can provide a sample prevention plan, training materials, and resources.  If there are questions about COVID-19 or if assistance is needed in developing a plan, please contact USF SafetyFlorida Consultation, https://health.usf.edu/publichealth/cohpe/usfsafetyflorida, for a free review and evaluation.