How To Protect Your Essential Hourly Workers From COVID-19

Lady wearing a surgical mask
Apr 17, 2020
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Across the country millions of hourly workers are putting themselves at risk of contracting the coronavirus simply by showing up to perform jobs like ringing up groceries, making deliveries, fixing cars or taking care of the elderly.

If you spend any amount of time talking to these workers, you quickly learn that concerns about their health pale in comparison to the concerns they have about bringing virus exposure home to their spouse, children or elderly parents.

The sacrifice these essential workers are making day in, day out requires workplaces to take added precautions to protect their safety and the safety of their families.

To address this, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has put forward the following guidance to help employers reduce the risk of coronavirus exposure for these frontline workers.

  • Encourage workers to stay home if they are sick.
  • Provide a place for hand washing or alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment with Environmental Protection Agency-approved cleaning products or ones that have label claims against the coronavirus.
  • Practice sensible social distancing, maintaining six feet between co-workers and customers, where possible. For example, demarcate six-foot distances with floor tape in checkout lines. Workplaces where social distancing is a challenge should consider innovative approaches, such as opening only every other cash register, temporarily moving workstations to create more distance, and installing plexiglass partitions.
  • Use a drive-through window or curbside pick-up.
  • Provide workers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Train workers in proper hygiene practices and the use of workplace controls.
  • Provide masks for workers to cover their nose and mouth to prevent spread of the virus.
  • Require customers entering your workplace to wear masks.
  • Encourage workers to report any safety and health concerns to their supervisors.

Beyond these safety measures, government officials are proposing to give doctors, nurses and essential hourly workers like truck drivers, janitors and grocery store clerks up to $25,000 in hazard pay as part of the phase four coronavirus relief bill.

The bonus pay which some are calling the “Heroes Fund” would amount to a $13-per-hour raise for those keeping the health care system and economy running during the crisis. It would stretch from the start of the public health emergency to the end of the year.

The benefit would be capped at $25,000 for workers earning less than $200,000 per year and at $5,000 for those earning more than $200,000.

The Heroes Fund would provide funding directly to eligible employers so they could then distribute the premium payments. Employers would be required to track payments and return unspent funds to the federal government.

Workers for entities that contract directly with state, local and tribal governments and deemed essential would also be eligible for hazard benefits. The proposal would provide benefits to the families of essential workers who have died as a result of COVID-19.

Negotiations for phase four of the coronavirus relief bill will commence after Congress returns to work the week of April 20.