COVID-19 Training: Preparing Employees for the ‘New Not-Normal’

26 May 2020 Blog
Authors: Kaleb N. Berhe
Published To: Coronavirus Resource Center:Back to Business Labor & Employment Law Perspectives

With the COVID-19 curve flattening, employers around the country are preparing to resume business operations and bring employees back to the workplace.  Of the many unique challenges employers face in the wake of the novel coronavirus, few are as important as maintaining a safe and healthy workplace.  Maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is in everyone’s best interest, as it will boost employee morale, establish trust and confidence among coworkers and the public, and allow businesses to emerge from this unprecedented public health crisis stronger and more prepared for the future.

Employers should take active steps to educate employees on COVID-19 risk factors and preventive behaviors by providing comprehensive training and resources.  Federal agencies such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state agencies such as the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) have released helpful guidance on COVID-19 training that employers should consider using for training employees upon their return to work.  

OSHA’s guidance suggests that the following topics be covered when training employees on COVID-19:

  • Ways that COVID-19 is spread (even by asymptomatic individuals)
  • Symptoms and signs associated with COVID-19 exposure
  • How to isolate individuals with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infections
  • How to report possible cases of COVID-19, including avenues of reporting
  • How to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), including how to discard used PPE  
  • OSHA offers a variety of online resources for employee training, including training videos for respiratory protection equipment and OSHA's Training and Reference Materials Library.

On May 14, 2020, Cal/OSHA released the most robust training guidance currently available to employers.  In addition to training issues suggested by OSHA, Cal/OSHA lists the following areas for COVID-19 training:

  • General description of COVID-19 symptoms, when to seek medical attention, how to prevent its spread, and employer procedures for preventing its spread at the workplace
  • How an infected person can spread COVID-19 to others even if they are not sick
  • How to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by using cloth face covers, including:
    • CDC guidelines that everyone should use cloth face covers when around other persons
    • How cloth face covers can help protect persons around the user when combined with physical distancing and frequent hand washing
    • Information that cloth face covers are not protective equipment and do not protect the wearer from COVID-19
    • Instructions on washing and sanitizing hands before and after using face coverings, which should be washed after each shift
  • Cough and sneeze etiquette
  • Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after interacting with other persons and after contacting shared surfaces or objects
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding sharing personal items with coworkers (i.e., dishes, cups, utensils, towels)
  • Providing tissues, no-touch disposal trash cans and hand sanitizer for use by employees
  • Safely using cleaners and disinfectants, which includes:
    • The hazards of the cleaners and disinfectants used at the worksite
    • Wearing PPE (such as gloves)
    • Ensuring cleaners and disinfectants are used in a manner that does not endanger employees

It is important to note the above interim guidance from OSHA and Cal/OSHA does not impose new legal obligations, as existing federal and California regulations currently require employers to train workers on infection prevention and new workplace hazards.  Rather, the suggested COVID-19 training topics are offered to help employers meet their obligation of reducing the risks associated with COVID-19 as employees begin to return to the workplace.  

California is not alone in addressing this issue, as other states, such as Vermont, are beginning to require employers to provide COVID-19 training to employees as part of statewide reopening procedures.  If you are unsure as to the requirements in your state, please consult with employment counsel for additional information. 

Foley has created a multi-disciplinary and multi-jurisdictional team, which has prepared a wealth of topical client resources and is prepared to help our clients meet the legal and business challenges that the coronavirus outbreak is creating for stakeholders across a range of industries. Click here for Foley’s Coronavirus Resource Center to stay apprised of relevant developments, insights and resources to support your business during this challenging time. To receive this content directly in your inbox, click here and submit the form. 

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services