Coronavirus and Flu: Managing Illnesses in the Workplace

Feb 5 2020 - COVID-19 (Coronavirus), Workplace Safety - Matthew J. Roberts, Esq.

California flu coronavirus
Right now, flu activity is high in California, according to the CDC.

Lately, the coronavirus has been a hot topic of conversation, social media and the news; last week, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared it a national public health emergency. However, while the coronavirus has grabbed our national attention, an estimated 26 million Americans have suffered from the flu within the last four months and at least 10,000 have died from complications related to the flu. Both the flu and the coronavirus are a strong reminder for employers to create or review their communicable disease policies and practices in the workplace.

California requires all employers to maintain an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP), and an effective IIPP includes policies and procedures for addressing communicable diseases. Ensuring adequate communication about workplace safety between employers and their workforce is another important IIPP aspect.

Employers can start providing information to employees using resources available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This toolkit provide action steps that business owners, managers and employees can take to minimize the effect of flu in the workplace. The CDC also offers up-to-date coronavirus information. Communication and education are important first steps towards managing communicable illnesses in the workplace.  

Additionally, the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has released guidance on protecting health care workers from the coronavirus. The guidance covers the safety requirements when providing care for suspected or confirmed patients of the respiratory disease or when handling pathogens in laboratory settings in California.

Other important policies and procedures to consider when managing illnesses in the workplace are flu shots, health screenings, maintaining privacy and employee relocation. However, various employment laws complicate implementing these policies so legal counsel should review them prior to implementing them in your workplace.

Matthew J. Roberts, Esq., Employment Law Counsel Subject Matter Expert

CalChamber members can use the Safety Compliance wizard to help you assess the quality of your health and safety programs and help you determine if they are in compliance with state and federal workplace safety requirements. Not a member? See how CalChamber can help you.

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