Joint Safety Committee

Once an employer has direct knowledge that an employee has tested positive for the Coronavirus, the following guidance is offered: 

1) Contact the relevant local health agency and disinfect the work area(s) normally occupied by the infected employee; 

2) Inform potentially exposed employees (those typically in contact with the infected worker) without mentioning the infected worker’s name; 

3) Within the parameters offered by the relevant collective bargaining agreement and by applicable (and evolving) Federal & State laws and regulations, promptly sort out and implement the proper means and methods available for granting leave (paid, subsidized or otherwise) from work; 

4) Maintain absolute confidentiality. Several Federal laws impose strict confidentiality requirements in re a CoVid-19 employees’ symptoms, test results, treatments, etc.; and 

5) Carefully manage return to work certifications. Once an employee has recovered from a Coronavirus infection and is well, it is important to verify his/her recovery so as not to potentially endanger other, uninfected employees on a return to work. To that extent, a note/certification from a licensed health care profession would serve that purpose. 

Given the workload being imposed upon those health care providers during the current Coronavirus crisis, however, acquiring timely return to work notes/certifications may be problematic. Both CDC and OSHA have encouraged “Alternative” certifications, where possible. We’re confident that our industry can be inventive enough to arrive at a suitable and fully protective “Alternative” certification. [21 March 2020] *

*For original post from ILA-USMX Joint Safety Committee click here.

Given the current pandemic status of the Novel Coronavirus, the JSC’s guidance in such a matter must be provided in a manner that preserves the health and safety of as many ILA members and management representatives as possible. In order to flatten the infection curve being experienced nationally, the JSC must recommend that sick workers and managers should be required to absent themselves (voluntarily or through direct order) so that other workers and managers who are not ill may be spared the risks of being infected with the Novel Coronavirus. We make that recommendation with the full understanding that a certain degree of potentially negative financial impact may be present for individuals who are required to absent themselves, but also that Federal legislation currently includes provisions that will substantially soften that impact. 

Moreover, in speaking with industry employers we’re made to understand that there is a prevailing sentiment that no worker or manager should be unduly impacted when engaged in an effort designed to protect our industry and the health and safety of the people who make it work. The JSC provides the foregoing guidance after very careful consideration, and with the overriding goal of preserving the health and safety of as many ILA members and management representatives as possible in these very challenging times. [19 March 2020] *

*For original post from ILA-USMX Joint Safety Committee click here

In most cases, OSHA will not enforce its recordkeeping rules that otherwise would have required all employers to make determinations as to whether “workers who contacted COVID-19 did so due to exposures at work.” In sum, there is a limited exemption…..

OSHA did not retract its basic position that COVID-19 “is a recordable illness,” which must be recorded as a work-related illness on OSHA 300 logs (or their equivalent) if: (1) the employee has a “confirmed case of COVID-19” based on at least one positive test for the virus; (2) the COVID-19 is “work-related,” per 29 CFR § 1904.5, i.e., the disease is contracted from exposure in the work environment; and (3) the case meets recording criteria, including a significant illness diagnosed by a healthcare professional or days away from work.

Instead, OSHA recognized that in areas with community-spread of the coronavirus, most employers “may have difficulty” making determinations that COVID-19 cases were due to exposures at work, so those employers would no longer have to affirmatively investigate whether the employee’s COVID-19-positive diagnosis was work-related in order to avoid the risk of an OSHA enforcement action for a recordkeeping violation.

The agency’s internal policy memorandum is anything but clear, but is nonetheless provided to the JSC’s constituents by clicking this link.

It’s important to know that all facemasks/respirators, if properly worn, will provide a given level of protection against transmitting and/or acquiring Covid-19 infection. On the waterfront, we typically see three different types of respiratory protection being worn for that purpose.

1). Surgical-Type Facemasks:  Surgical masks are disposable after a day’s use, and with a reasonably good facial seal provide protection against both the transmission of virus particles and the (somewhat less effective) acquisition of virus particles. They come in a number of different designs, the most effective of which are the multi-layer type. In high demand markets, surgical mask designs are among the most readily obtainable.

2). Cloth Facemasks:  Cloth facemasks are basic filtration facepieces that are reusable after light washing, and are among the most convenient of all means of respiratory protection. Some are essentially “homemade” and, depending upon the type of materials used in their construction, offer varying degrees of affirmative protection. Cloth facemasks are becoming more and more obtainable online, even in high demand markets.

Here are a few pointers for putting on and taking off a cloth mask:
• Place your mask over your mouth and nose.
• Tie it behind your head or use ear loops and make sure it's snug.
• Don't touch your mask while wearing it.
• If you accidentally touch your mask, wash or sanitize your hands.
• Remove the mask by untying it or lifting off the ear loops without touching the front of the mask or your face.
• Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask.
• Regularly wash your mask with soap and water in the washing machine. It's fine to launder it with other clothes.

3). N-95 Respirators:  N-95 (NIOSH 95%) respirators are also meant to be disposable, but with exemplary hygiene practices (given their current high market demand in medical and hospital settings), can be reused for short periods. Like any form of respiratory protection, their effectiveness is best when a good facial seal can be secured. In that light, it is important to ensure that both elastic straps are used.

*For original post from ILA-USMX Joint Safety Committee click here.