When the pandemic erupts, more states create their own standards that require employers to provide workers with proper COVID-19 training to prevent transmission of the virus, and failure to follow these measures in certain jurisdictions can result in significant fines, experts say. .
Sixteen states – either through a temporary emergency standard or through a gubernatorial executive order – now require employers to train their workers on COVID-19 occupational safety protocols. While most training requirements include basics such as social distancing and hand hygiene, some of the more robust training rules can cause headaches for multi-state employers, experts say.
"Every state enforces things differently and has a different punishment structure," said Jonathan Snare, Washington-based partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and head of the company's work environment. “Many employers already do some type of risk assessment. … The issue is the need to double-check the requirements of (states with a temporary emergency standard), both from a statutory point of view and to ensure that they train their employees. That has been a big issue.
While the majority of training requirements were issued through executive orders, three states ̵
Virginia & # 39 ;s Safety and Health Codes Board approved the first temporary emergency standard on July 15; it entered into force at the end of September.
Under all three standards, employers must provide training on coronavirus physical distancing requirements; facial coatings and sanitation; safe and healthy working methods and control measures; knowledge of the ability of asymptomatic individuals to transmit coronavirus; COVID-19 signs, symptoms and reporting procedures for the workplace; and quarantine / isolation requirements.
Virginia also requires employers to maintain written certification for each employee who received the training, including the date of training, the signature of the employee who received the training, and the name of the person who completed the training. and the author of the training material. The standard allows fines of up to $ 12,726 for serious violations of the standard and up to $ 127,254 for intentional violations, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency describes as violations of workplace rules and policies made either knowingly or as a result of negligence.
Michigan's temporary emergency standard, which came into effect on October 14, requires training in the primary language of employees.
Under Michigan law, violation of an urgent rule can result in a fine of $ 7,000 for a serious offense against $ 70,000 for an intentional violation.
Oregon & # 39 ;s Temporary Emergency Standard COVID-19, which went into effect Monday, requires employers to provide workers with training by December 21st. It also prescribes that workplaces that are judged to have an "exceptional" risk behavior. training "live" so that workers can ask questions and get immediate answers. The standard does not list fines, but the state OSHA has issued employers fines of up to $ 2,000 for serious COVID-19 violations and up to $ 14,000 for intentional violations.
The California Board of Occupational Safety and Health will vote on Thursday to adopt a temporary emergency standard that has requirements similar to the other state standards. If adopted, the standard will go to the administrative law firm for review.
Small and medium-sized enterprises without a safety officer or a health and safety officer can struggle to comply with such measures, says Jane Terry, Vice President of Government Affairs at the National Safety Council.
"Rules and requirements will vary from state to state" and multi-state employers should check in with legal counsel and the local chamber of commerce and talk to other companies to make sure they & # 39; follow the guidance of the states in which they operate, Terry said.
Despite this challenge, she said that employers "like the security of knowing" exactly what the expectations are for keeping workers safe and healthy and following the law. "These types of actions by states can help provide the clear direction for these employers," Terry said.
Many employers, especially those with a nationwide workforce, may not know what COVID-19 training requirements are in specific states, says Michael Johnson, CEO of Arlington, Virginia-based Clear Law Institute, which provides online compliance [FailuretocomplywiththesetrainingrequirementscouldopenacompanytoafineandworsealawsuitJohnsonsaid
Those who do not provide education also reduce their defenses in lawsuits, Mr. Johnson said.
Trials for coronavirus-related incorrect death, negligence and intentional supply of emotional distress, citing lack of education among other issues, are being filed, he said.
More insurance and workers' compensation news about the coronavirus crisis here .