Alright, folks. We know a lot of you are sick of hearing about it and we know that we’ve talked about it already - COVID-19 is awful. There. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to the topic the title demands we speak of; what doyou do if an employee gets COVID?

We know that we’ve touched on the topic on how to handle COVID - but considering that the pandemic is still here, bothering us all, it doesn’t hurt to revisit the conversation. So, if you’re new here or if you’re just joining the party, read on. We’re going to give you a crash-course on how to handle a worker coming down with COVID.

Employee Risk Levels

This serves as kind of a general guide for the “COVID classifications” of different workplaces - or rather, what the risk of exposure for the three groups (high-risk, medium risk, and low-risk) of workers is. This is to let you know where contractors fall on this spectrum.

● High-risk workers are, of course, those working in health care, mortuary workers, and people who otherwise run the very high risk of being exposed.
● Medium risk workers are people that are required to be in close (six feet or less) contact with people or work in environments where there are liable to be large groups of people.
● Low-risk workers are people that work in pretty much any other kind of job that doesn’t fall into the first two classes.
We talked about it in greater detail before, but in the case of “medium risk environments”, (like construction and contracting jobs) physical barriers (such as sneeze guards) and policies to limit how much exposure workers have to each other are just two strategies mandated by OSHA to keep worksites as safe as possible.

In low-risk sites, sneeze guards and social distancing policies aren’t required as people aren’t very likely to be in situations where they can be exposed to COVID. All that needs to be done in these cases is to keep abreast of what’s being said on the CDC’s COVID-19 website and any other public health announcements.

So - What Do I Do If a Worker Has COVID?

Are There Legal Amendments That I Should Be Concerned With?

If you’ve got a sick employee, ask them to call out and not come into work. While you don’t normally have this right, considering the circumstances, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) allows you to ask any employee if they’re experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. These symptoms include shortness of breath, cough, or a fever (which the CDC specifies would need to be above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to count).

Due to this “pandemic amendment” to the EEOC’s workplace guidelines, you’re also allowed to ask an employee if they or anyone that they live with has been in contact with someone that either has or is/was suspected to have COVID. You’re also able to have workers screened for body temperature. While you can just have some random person with a thermometer do this, it’s better - and probably preferable for many - to have a trained medical professional doing the screenings, instead.

It’s also a very good idea to be intimately familiar with Federal, State, and local leave entitlement law. Everything should be handled aboveboard. Dealing with COVID is bad enough - no one should need to worry about leave benefits and legalities while dealing with a serious illness.

How Do I Deal with the Sick Worker?

If a worker has - or is suspected of having - COVID, the first thing that you need to do is have them removed from the work site immediately. This way, the risk of the rest of the employees getting exposed to the virus is limited and the project that you’re working on isn’t compromised due to an inability to complete it.

Said employee should be kept in quarantine away from everyone else on the job until it’s possible to confirm whether they have COVID. You then need to determine which workers may have been exposed to the virus and get in touch with both their local health authorities or the CDC for further instructions.

While awaiting further guidance, the rest of the work staff need to be informed about the possibility that they may have been exposed to COVID. Do notreveal the identity of the isolated worker as you are not allowed to do so by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The only people required to know the identity of this employee is HR and immediate supervisors.

From there, instruct the rest of the employees that they should self-monitor for fever, shortness of breath, or coughing and then sanitize the location and surrounding areas where the (potentially) sick employee was working. If possible, have the area evacuated and closed off, increase air circulation and wait at least 24 hours before the area is disinfected so that the cleaning staff has a lower chance of being infected and spreading COVID.

If the employee is confirmed to have COVID, the current CDC-provided protocol is to have the employee stay isolated at home until they’ve met the criteria to come out of home isolation:

● High-risk workers are, of course, those working in health care, mortuary workers, and people who otherwise run the very high risk of being exposed.
● Medium risk workers are people that are required to be in close (six feet or less) contact with people or work in environments where there are liable to be large groups of people.
● Low-risk workers are people that work in pretty much any other kind of job that doesn’t fall into the first two classes.
This is a truncated explanation of the current instructions on how to handle an employee getting COVID at your worksite and while we’ve provided you with the steps needed to ensure workplace safety in this event, you can always check both OSHA’s website and the CDC’s website in order to get more details on how to handle such an event.

And because there’s no limit to the information you can have on what to do if an employee gets COVID, we’re inviting folks to tell us more about their experiences and the proper steps they took in the comments. Keep yourselves and your workers safe, people - take care.

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