Many factors must be considered for businesses who are looking to reopen in the age of COVID-19. One of the first things that should be assessed is the business’s COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan. The executive orders signed by Governor Whitmer permitting businesses to begin the process of reopening make it mandatory that businesses develop and publish such a plan by June 1, 2020, or within two weeks of resuming in-person activities (whichever is later).
A thorough preparedness and response plan requires the employer to consider the particularized risks of transmission of COVID-19 as it relates to individual worksite, type of work being performed, and characteristics of the business’s employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines on Preparedness and Response plans make it clear that these plans should be tailored to the specific risks and needs to each individual business. Accordingly, this is not the type of document that should simply be copied and pasted from boilerplate language. Instead, proactive employers should develop a plan with their own business in mind.
An effective preparedness and response plan should consider several factors. First, it should set forth the steps that the business will take to reduce the risk of transmission, including ingress and egress monitoring, distancing measures, promoting frequent and thorough hand washing, providing personal protection equipment (PPE), and implementing disinfection procedures. It should also provide policies and procedures to identify and isolate sick employees, including encouraging self-monitoring, developing procedures for reporting possible exposure, and creating policies to allow for isolation and removal of individuals who are sick. It should also communicate to employees about the workplace flexibilities and protections that are being put in place, and provide them with training and guidance for how to handle infection. The preparedness and response plan should also factor in existing OSHA standards, as well as incorporating the requirements for employee protection set forth by Executive Order 2020-97, discussed on our COVID-19 resource page here.
Preparing an effective and compliant plan is essential for several reasons. First, as mentioned above, doing so is a requirement under Michigan law. In fact, Executive Order 2020-97 makes it clear that the failure of a business to develop and publish a preparedness and response plan is in itself a violation of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. This leads to the second reason for a good P&R Plan: mitigation of the business’s liability. By being proactive and taking all reasonable precautions set forth by the CDC, MIOSHA, OSHA, and the Governor, the risk of being exposed to further legal liability from employees or customers who contract COVID-19 in the workplace is greatly reduced.
If these reasons are not enough, perhaps the most important reason to develop and implement a thorough P&R plan is to protect the business’s most valuable asset: its employees. As of the date of this posting, there are over 54,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, with over 5,000 deaths. In the US, over 1.7 million Americans have been diagnosed with the virus and over 100,000 of our brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers have lost their lives. While it may not be possible to completely eliminate the risk of this virus, employers can use a thorough preparedness and response plan to reduce that risk as much as practicable. Further, by taking every measure possible to protect their safety, employers communicate to their employees that they are valued.
If you operate a business that needs assistance developing a thorough preparedness and response plan that is tailored to the needs of your business and complies with Michigan Law, don’t hesitate to contact us today.