Takeaways from ‘Workplace Safety Reopening Guide for SC Employers’ Legal Webinar

 The S.C. Chamber of Commerce hosted a webinar Thursday for employers on how to safely begin reopening businesses.

“A Workplace Safety Reopening Guide for South Carolina Employers” was presented by employment and labor law experts Kyle Dillard and Michael McKnight, shareholders with Ogletree Deakins.

Click here to view all webinar slides and here to watch the hour-long recording from the S.C. Chamber’s YouTube channel.

Topics included:

  • Steps employers can take to comply with continually evolving governmental safety and health recommendations
  • Proper employee screening and the handling of suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • Responses to employee questions, concerns, and complaints about workplace conditions and Personal Protective Equipment
  • OSHA requirements on the workplace use of face coverings, surgical masks, respirators, and PPE

Charleston TV station Live5News covered the webinar and summarized four key takeaway questions:

Can I require employees to wear face coverings?

The lawyers reviewed OSHA clauses and said if employers require employees to wear face coverings, the employer should provide the coverings as well as keep them sanitary. The lawyers said OSHA would not regulate face coverings for most businesses. However, OSHA does regulate the use of the fitted, N95 masks that are typically used by medical professionals.

Can an employee refuse to work because he or she is scared of COVID-19?

The lawyers said employees could refuse to encounter dangerous conditions at work. Examples would be if personal protection or social distancing guidelines were not being followed or enforced. However, employees cannot refuse to work because they are merely “afraid” with no basis. The lawyers suggested contacting OSHA for specific questions.

What is the best way to screen employees or customers before entering a business?

The lawyers encouraged employers to do some kind of workplace screening, such as 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 leaving for work. If employers are checking temperatures of others, OSHA recommends having a physical barrier between the two employees since keeping a 6-foot distance is difficult during this task.

What do you do if your workplace has a suspected or confirmed case?

The lawyers said employers should require people to stay home if they are sick. Employers should also follow CDC deep-cleaning and disinfecting guidelines after reported suspected or confirmed cases. Employers are only required to report to OSHA if there is an employee hospitalization within 24 hours of being infected or if an employee dies from the virus.

Source: S.C. Chamber of Commerce