HOUSTON — More businesses are opening while the confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise. It's why some people are cautious about going back to work. In fact, a few Houston restaurants have closed temporarily, again, because their employees tested positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus.
When it comes to questions about the pandemic and working in the office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and your county health department all play a role.
The CDC recommends employers do five things to prevent or slow the spread of the coronavirus:
- Conducting daily health checks
- Conducting a hazard assessment of the workplace
- Encouraging employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate
- Implementing policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace
- Improving the building ventilation system
If someone in the office tests positive for COVID-19, the CDC wants employers to close off all areas visited by that employee. Open doors and windows to increase circulation and wait 24-hours before cleaning the area with EPA-approved disinfectants. Every surface, even carpets and drapes, should be cleaned with the proper cleaner.
OSHA, which regulates workplace safety standards, wants employees to wash their hands frequently. OSHA wants employers to offer flexible work sites and flexible work hours. OSHA is discouraging workers from using shared spaces and equipment. And right now, employers should not require sick peoples to get a doctor's note in order to miss work.
OSHA is also doing free, health and safety consultations for small businesses.
The pandemic is why the U.S. Department of Labor announced, in April, emergency paid sick leave. It covers up to 80 hours of paid leave if the employee contracts COVID-19 or if the employee must provide care for a family member who contracted the virus.
You can get tested for free in Houston.
If an employee is waiting on results, Harris County's Health Department wants them isolated while at work. And, in the case of an outbreak at the office, the county says employers should suspend operations, temporarily.
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