CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - On Thursday, the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce hosted a webinar with labor and employment attorneys from Ogletree Deakins to give guidelines to business owners on how they can safely reopen.
Some of the main topics and questions were about face coverings in the workplace, employee rights during the COVID-19 pandemic and health screenings.
In a recent survey from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, more than half of the 4,500 business owners that responded said they are concerned about workplace safety and liability of exposure to employees or customers.
Can I require employees to wear face coverings?
In the webinar, lawyers went through some clauses by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They said if employers are requiring employees to wear face coverings, they should provide them and keep them in sanitary condition. Lawyers also said OSHA would not regulate face coverings for most businesses. However, OSHA does regulate the use of fitted, N95 masks which are typically used by medical professionals.
Can an employee refuse to work because they are scared of COVID-19?
In the webinar, lawyers said employees can refuse to encounter dangerous conditions at work. For example, if employees are required to wear face coverings and stand six feet apart and those regulations are not being followed, the employee can complain. However, employees cannot refuse to work simply because they are “afraid" with no basis. They suggested reaching out to OSHA if you have specific questions.
What is the best way to screen employees or customers before entering a business?
In the webinar, lawyers said employers are encouraged to do some kind of screening in the workplace. This could mean a questionnaire that asks employees if they have had symptoms or traveled to high-risk areas. It could also mean temperature-checking people at the door or asking employees to check their temperatures at home before coming to work. If employers are checking temperatures of others, OSHA recommends having a physical barrier between the two employees since keeping a six feet distance is difficult during this task.
What do you do if your workplace has a suspected or confirmed case?
In the webinar, lawyers said employers should require people stay home if they are sick. They should also follow CDC deep-cleaning and disinfecting guidelines after reported of suspected or confirmed cases. However, employers are only required to report to OSHA if an employee is hospitalized within 24 hours of being infected or if an employee died from the virus.
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