As states and regions have moved to reopen from government-ordered shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, transportation companies – considered essential – are hoping clients that are non-essential will soon begin increasing ridership. According to law firm Windels Marx, each company should have a “Return To Work Safety Plan” in place that conforms with recent guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The EEOC recently expanded guidance and addressed the “return to work” rules and employee COVID-19 testing guidance to clarify that employers may not conduct virus antibody tests. The EEOC also advised that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not allow employers to exclude employees from on-site work locations simply because they have an underlying medical condition that the CDC says might create a higher risk of severe illness if the employee contracts COVID-19.
The CDC has continued to update its guidance on the workplace concerning personal protection equipment (PPE), such as face coverings and gloves. Both agencies have also recommended the use of approved cleaning products from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Transportation companies should be aware that OSHA has also issued guidance for rideshare, taxi and for-hire workers, which includes recommendations that there would be limits on the number of passengers transported at a single time, and the installation of plexiglass partitions between driver and passenger compartments when possible.
In addition to addressing any such in-vehicle modifications, an FHV company’s Return to Work Safety Plan should address the following topics and questions, according to Windels Marx:
Social Distancing: Are you ensuring employees and customers comply with physical distancing requirements? Can you maintain a six-foot distance among employees? Should you consider staggering schedules for the employees to maintain capacity limits? Have you considered protective shields for additional protection at workstations?
Hygiene and Cleaning: Are you ensuring employees comply with hygiene and cleaning requirements? How will you distribute and utilize the use of hand sanitizer? Will there be designated locations for hand sanitizer and/or sanitary wipes? Do you have a plan to limit contact among employees?
Communication: Are signs posted to ensure social distancing? Can you implement travel directions to encourage movement and minimize contact? Do you have a communications plan for employees and clients?
Mandatory Mask Use, Disposal: Do you have protocols for the distribution and use of masks to employees or clients? What are your procedures for the disposal of masks? Is a mask to be worn continuously, or are there exceptions?
Screening: Are you ensuring that persons entering your workplace are tested for a fever? Are you requiring employees to complete a questionnaire prior to departing for work? What are your protocols if an employee feels sick while at work?
Contact Tracing and Disinfection of Contaminated Areas: What steps have you taken to clean surfaces in common areas, restrooms, and conference rooms? What steps have you taken to disinfect workstations or offices? What cleaning schedules have you implemented for vehicles? How have you ensured that business and your employees comply with contact tracing and disinfection requirements?
Transportation companies should be aware that failing to implement such a Return to Work Safety Plan and enforcing OSHA and public health requirements can lead to administrative actions and litigation. On May 19, 2020, OSHA announced it is increasing in-person inspections at all types of workplaces, and that OSHA staff will continue to prioritize COVID-19 inspections and will utilize all enforcement tools.
The bottom line is that businesses need to take steps to insulate themselves as best they can to avoid fines, claims and lawsuits – especially transportation companies that transport precious human cargo in confined spaces.
Windels Marx offers a free consultation to review any proposed or draft Return to Work Safety Plans that a company’s management team may be working on, to ensure business operations meet the new challenges of the pandemic for employees, drivers, and clients as government restrictions are relaxed. Even if a company has a plan in place, the firm conducts “due diligence” reviews from a legal perspective to ensure 100% compliance, and to further mitigate risks.
Questions can be directed to Matt Daus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Windels Marx