The U.S. Labor Department has passed a new policy that extends its workplace safety inspection efforts to job sites other than healthcare centers as more employees start to return to work.
As most states and businesses start to buckle up for the country’s gradual reopening, the demand to ramp up workplace safety inspection efforts and clear-cut COVID-19 protocols has multiplied.
OSHA issues new safety protocols for businesses
In its latest policy, OSHA toppled its previous guidelines by stretching its safety evaluation efforts to non-healthcare facilities. The decision was made following recent coronavirus-related lawsuits filed by employees as well as labor advocates demanding equal protection for all workers.
The agency also issued new COVID-19 protocols—from engineering to administrative controls—which may put employers at risk if violated.
For instance, employers must record the COVID-19 disease as a workplace illness to help them acknowledge that the infection occurred while at work.
OSHA also encourages businesses to promote additional shifts or alternating workdays to lessen the number of employees in the facility. The agency also obliged all employers to implement the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), installation of physical barriers, and rigid physical distancing.
However, the agency reiterated that employers could only be fined only after the workplace safety inspection is conducted.
How JPMorgan ensures its employees’ safety
Some companies have already started implementing coronavirus-related measures. JPMorgan Chase and Co., for instance, has announced on Wednesday, May 20, via a memo that all its employees will be required to use “hot desks.”
The management said the new temporary seating arrangement would make the office easier to disinfect.
Moreover, the multinational investment bank also plans to remove unnecessary furniture and will require cafeterias to sell pre-packaged meals only.
Here are the other measures to be implemented:
- Cashiers are barred from accepting paper bills
- Fewer seats in cafeterias
- Elevators to carry a limited number of people only
Labor unions demand clear-cut policies
The revised policy appears to be incomplete according to the labor advocate of Public Justice David Muraskin.
Labor unions have reportedly been pushing lawmakers to pass a new bill or an “emergency temporary standard policy” to ensure workers’ safety.
According to Muraskin, a standard protocol would urge businesses to speed up the implementation of workplace safety measures.
He also emphasized all employers’ duty to give a safe work environment. However, most of the current guidelines are often softened with conditions such as “if feasible” and “where possible.”
“That is why people want actual standards. It has a real effect. These inspections are likely a way for the administration to claim it is doing something without actually doing anything.”
Five of McDonald’s workers filed a lawsuit against the fast-food giant recently, citing negligence over employees’ safety. Workers from Smithfield Inc. also sued the meat company but was later on dismissed.
As the world’s economies begin to reopen and embrace the “new normal,” stringent workplace safety inspection measures are needed now more than ever.