We are currently entering the "second wave" of the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases rise at a staggering rate in California. Nobody knows exactly how long this pandemic will be here. We do know that much of the spread happens in the workplace. That's despite the strict social distancing guidelines put in place and the safety measures taken by many employers.
Some employers in California are allowing employees to work from home. Others have closed their doors until things go somewhat back to normal. But in some industries, employees must still show up for work and take the risk of potentially becoming infected in order to earn a living. We often see this with medical personnel, grocery store employees, police and first responders, construction workers and other industries that are deemed "essential."
What are employers currently doing to protect their workers from COVID-19?
The National Safety Council (NSC) recently conducted a survey to gain insight on how employers are protecting their workers from exposure to the coronavirus. The NSC launched the survey in July of 2020. It targeted those who made safety and health decisions at companies with at least 250 employees. The employers involved in the survey spanned across a wide variety of industries.
One critical question asked by the NSC is if employers implemented more than 20 recommended safety measures pertaining to COVID-19 and how it impacted productivity. The recommended safety measures include:
- Health screenings
- Temperature screenings
- Self-reporting of symptoms
- Contact tracing
- Travel restrictions for non-employees onsite
Some of the most crucial measures taken by employers in the survey include:
- Installing hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations throughout facilities
- Increasing frequency of cleaning and sanitization of facilities and work stations
- Providing employees with personal protective equipment, such as masks and faceshields
- Allowing nonessential workers to work remotely if they're able to
- Installing signs and arrows in facilities to establish safe flow of traffic
- Spacing work stations at least 6 ft apart
Are these measures enough to protect workers?
The coronavirus spreads at such a fast and efficient pace that it can only be slowed down through social distancing. It's very easy for workers to be exposed to this virus. The virus can be brought in from outside of a workplace and be spread among workers. It can also be brought in by visitors in public places, such as grocery stores and hospitals. To put it realistically, there is no guarantee that you won't be exposed to the coronavirus, no matter what you do to avoid exposure.
To make matters worse, many people who are infected with the coronavirus show no symptoms or aren't aware that they are carrying it. Those who do have symptoms often experience coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, a fever and fatigue. As we previously discussed, some people who are infected with the coronavirus have long-term symptoms.
If you were infected with the coronavirus in California, you may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits until you recover. During the summer of 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order giving certain workers COVID-19 presumption if they test positive. Since it's often difficult to prove that a viral infection was contracted on the job, the new law makes it easier for certain workers to obtain workers' compensation benefits while lessening the burden of proof.
Senate Bill 1159 was also signed into law by Governor Newsom this past summer and provides COVID-19 presumption to peace officers, firefighters, employees of health facilities, nurses, emergency medical personnel, IHSS employees and other essential workers.
Contact our workers' compensation attorneys if you fall ill at work
If you began noticing symptoms of the coronavirus or have tested positive, you will need to take time off from work to recover. Even if COVID-19 presumption doesn't apply to you, it's important that you still apply for workers' compensation benefits. Be sure to first consult with an experienced San Diego attorney who knows how the system works.
The award-winning attorneys at McLaughlin & Sanchez can help guide you through the complex process of filing a workers' compensation claim. We can also prepare your case for trial and fight to maximize your benefits while you recover. To get started, contact us online or call us for your free case review.