California and a handful of other states now recognize COVID-19 as a workplace hazard. This puts the onus on employers to implement COVID-19 workplace safety measures and comply with infection reporting.

In November, 4medica hosted a webinar with Juan Calderon, district manager for the California Enforcement Outreach Coordination Program, to discuss the details of California Assembly Bill No. 685, approved in September 2020. While state-specific, it is a model any organization can follow to help maintain a safe work environment and report potential exposures, both to employees and local public health agencies.

COVID-19 as a workplace hazard

Download the 4medica session, “Let’s Talk COVID-19 Infection Prevention Requirements – An Essential Webinar,” HERE.

The high points of AB 685

As with any workplace injury, COVID-19 cases in California must be reported to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if it is determined that an infection occurred in a place of employment, or in connection with any employment. Reporting is key, Calderon said, as there is a $5,000 penalty for violating this requirement.

Calderon outlined the “Resilience Roadmap Stages” that employers can follow to protect their workers from COVID-19, which include:

  • Stage 1: Safety and Preparedness – Make the essential workforce environment as safe as possible
  • Stage 2: Lower Risk Workplaces – Create opportunities for lower risk sectors to adapt and reopen; offer modified school programs and childcare to re-open
  • Stage 3: Higher Risk Workplaces – Create opportunities for higher risk sectors to adapt and re-open
  • Stage 4: End Stay-At-Home Order – Return to expanded workforce in higher risk workplaces (requires therapeutics)

These measures are in addition to California’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP, which is based on California Senate Bill 198), which state employers are required to follow. IIPP includes employee training, incident investigation and record keeping. California employers must record a work-related COVID-19 illness or fatality just like any other occupational illness, and COVID-19 cases must be confirmed through testing to be recordable.

How serious is California about COVID-19 reporting violations? Calderon noted that 11 employers were cited as of September 4, with proposed penalties ranging from $2,025 to $51,190. Prevention and screening are both key, he emphasized, to maintain compliance.

How automated screening can help

Along with implementing workplace safety measures, it is incumbent on employers to record, manage and analyze all COVID-related activities. For employees this may require regular COVID-19 testing, daily temperature checks and completing a daily COVID-19 questionnaire to identify potential exposures.

Handling these compliance measures manually on a day-to-day basis can create an enormous administrative burden and result in incomplete information. The 4medicaCOVID-19 Employee Wellness Management Solution™ automates these and other required steps to mitigate risks and support ongoing prevention during the pandemic.

How does it work?

Employees can access the 4medica solution app on their smartphone, tablet or desktop computer, tapping into 4medica’s health symptom checker. There, they can complete a customized wellness questionnaire, view lab test results and record daily temperatures. These functions work together to calculate a risk score that validates their health status every day and clears them to safely return to work. It also enables employers to easily track and report on COVID-19-related symptoms.

Designed for maximum flexibility, employers can customize the questionnaire and establish the frequency for employees to respond. Employee responses are visible only to employers via an integrated dashboard, protecting their privacy. Protocols can also be built into the platform to align with corporate and legal policies for COVID-19 testing.

To ensure the most up-to-date information, the 4medica COVID-19 Employee Wellness Management Solution integrates with most laboratories to populate lab test results, and employers have access to a dashboard where they can see a one-screen view of their employees’ data responses organized by testing and risk categories. The ultimate objective is increase employee safety while helping to reduce legal exposure for COVID-19 management.

 

Taking the long view

While vaccines for COVID-19 are showing promise, no one knows how the pandemic will ultimately play out. In a recent article published in the Nature Research Journal, Yonatan Grad, a Harvard epidemiologist, predicted, “We’re in for a long haul.”

The article stated, “If immunity to the virus lasts less than a year, for example, similar to other human coronaviruses in circulation, there could be annual surges in COVID-19 infections through to 2025 and beyond.”

With such a long tail, it is important for organizations to put screening and tracking measures in place today to manage and monitor COVID-19 workplace safety measures. Whether your state mandates COVID-19 workplace safety requirements or not, the health of your people and the survival of your business may depend on it.

Ready to explore the 4medica COVID-19 Employee Wellness Management Solution for organizations? Visit our website to learn more, schedule a demo or call us today at 424.289.2500.