As vaccines have been rolling out and availability has expanded, many or most of our customers and employees have developed some immunity but we can’t drop the procedures just yet. We have OSHA to deal with and they’ve stepped it up a notch and probably have more to come.
President Biden promised a Emergency Temporary Standard by March 15th. Well that didn’t quite happen but OSHA has circulated a draft internally from well informed reports. In its place, they published a national emphasis program for targeted industries. Cotton gins and agriculture in general is not in the targeted group but don’t be surprised if you have to answer questions about Covid procedures and protocols if you have to have an interaction with OSHA for the foreseeable future.
While life for most of cotton country is getting back to a semblance of ‘normal’ we need to be aware that this will have a long tail I’m afraid. We should expect to have outbreaks and rules and regs lingering. We still have people working for us out there that have underlying conditions and have not had covid or been vaccinated. We need to do what we can to help protect them at least while they’re at work.
To get a hint of what will likely be in a “temporary standard” please go to https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework. Virginia is one of the first State Plan States to have a permanent standard for Covid. We’ve written about this previously and as we get a better picture on enforcement in Virginia, we’ll likely write about it again.
As we get into repair season, lets do our best to keep Covid out of the gin and keep our year-round employees safe.
The National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA) is hosting a webinar specifically on Covid-19 and compliance issues surrounding the ever changing world of what we should be doing. Travis Vance with the firm Fisher and Phillips will lead the webinar. All cotton Ginners are invited to take part. The link for the free webinar is https://cotton.zoom.us/j/99549992735. To log-in manually, the meeting ID is: 995 4999 2735
All ginners are encouraged to attend this webinar. This topic was very popular at the recent NCGA issues webinar and many requests came in for more information and a webinar on this single subject. The meeting will be August 11 at 3 PM Eastern time (2 PM Central) and should last about 2 hours. Give us a call if you need the full invitation information.
OSHA’s approach to Covid illness in the workplace has …. evolved…. over time. As of now there are no hard rules set to address covid and covid like illness but over time, OSHA and some state’s workers comp (such as California) say that Covid can be a work related illness if a reasonable person can expect the exposure that caused the illness came from the work place.
Although no citations that we’re aware of at the moment have been issued, it seems logical that at some point osha will look at widespread outbreaks of Covid as something to investigate. The General Duty Clause is a catch-all piece of OSHA law that can be cited in the absence of other standards. If an outbreak happens, and a complaint occurs, it is possible for OSHA to look at whether or not an employer has done anything to help stop the virus.
To that end, we’re urging you to take a look at our HELPFUL Covid Links page. This is NOT a comprehensive list of resources… far from it. It is just a good starting place to start work on this issue. No one can prescribe the things each employer needs to do to address this but some attention needs to be made and remember… if it didn’t happen on paper, it didn’t happen. Develop a plan, write it down and follow it.