The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a government body that has created certain policies employers have to follow in order to protect their employees from harm. Employers are required to provide safety equipment and do everything in their power to maintain the good health of their employees while they are in the workplace, this includes protecting them from the harm which could be caused by the new 2019-Coronavirus.
The coronavirus was first discovered sometime in December of 2019 in China and has spread rapidly across the globe. The coronavirus has reached the west as well and 5 cases have been confirmed in the United States. The coronavirus has claimed over 50 lives in China and infected over 1900 people altogether, however, there hasn’t been a global warning yet because it doesn’t seem to be spreading rapidly in any country other than China.
The virus originated from a Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan. This market not only sold seafood but also other animals such as bats and snakes. Research has shown that the virus has a very similar genetic code as that of the type of snakes which were sold at the market and many who had been infected had recently visited that market.
The coronavirus, being a viral infection, can spread through the air, and being around someone with the virus can be enough for a person to get infected. Employers need to take every precaution necessary to ensure their workplace is safe and does not help spread the virus.
The risk is currently low in the United States
Since there has been no official announcement regarding a state of emergency in the transmission of the virus in the United States one’s employers are not required to currently take protective action. However, some relevant OHSA policies which may need to be applied in the case that the virus starts spreading, include The OHSA Personal Protective Equipment Standard (PPE) and The General Duty Clause. The PPE standard basically states that employers are responsible for ensuring their employees are properly covered (gloves, eye protection, respiratory masks) so that the virus is not free to travel from one person to the other.
The General Duty Clause mandates that employers keep the place of employment safe from any hazards which could be life-threatening, and this includes keeping the environment as safe as possible from the new coronavirus.
The WHO is taking precautions and anyone who is flying in from Wuhan will be screened to see if they are carrying the virus. Anyone who has symptoms such as a fever or respiratory discomfort is taken in for a screening and further testing. The hope is the virus will not spread and the precautionary measures which are being undertaken by health professionals will be enough to prevent the coronavirus from becoming the next SARS epidemic. If anyone has traveled recently, visited the airport, or had contact with a person who recently went to a city in China, and they are experiencing a fever and respiratory illness they should go to their doctor immediately to get checked up just in case.