Who is the CDC and what do they do?
The acronym CDC stands for the Center for Disease Control, they are our nation’s health protection agency. The CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services; their job is to protect America and its citizens from health, safety and security threats. This important part of the federal government conducts critical science and provides health information that will protect individuals against health threats.
In recent events and with the Pandemic of COVID 19, you’ve heard the CDC in an endless stream of news coverage, giving recommendations for health and safety. Unfortunately, the CDC has been less-than consistent with their messages regarding business requirements when it comes to COVID 19. In this blog, we will try to break down the most current regulations for small businesses and how it applies to rural east Texas in regard to COVID 19.
Guidelines or Requirements from the CDC?
It’s important to make the distinction between guidelines and requirements. The CDC will issue guidelines that are the “best practices” for businesses and individuals to follow. These guidelines are not always requirements that carry a penalty if not followed, they are simply the best action(s) to take for certain risks. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is the federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related injury and illness. NIOSH is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the Department of Health and Human Services. You’ve heard a lot of guidelines from NIOSH, since they are deal mainly with health issues in businesses.
Difference between NIOSH and OSHA:
OSHA and NIOSH sound like the same entity, however OSHA is a government entity within the Department of Labor and NIOSH is governed by the CDC. The two are closely related but have different missions served by their organizations. Both were created by The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
CDC guidelines businesses MUST implement:
All businesses, regardless of their size or location have certain requirements issued by OSHA. As mentioned, the guidelines set forth by OSHA are requirements, not suggestions and in some cases, can carry a fine or penalty if not followed. Some of those requirements include:
- OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards: Employers are required to provide PPE for employees who work in an at-risk environment or who are exposed to workplace hazards. That could mean masks, gloves and even respiratory protection, if necessary.
- General Duty Clause: Requires employers to make sure employees are not exposed recognized hazards that are causing, or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
- Bloodborne Pathogens Standard: Applies to occupational exposure to human blood and other potentially infectious materials that typically do not include respiratory secretions that may contain SARS-CoV-2.
What are the current regulations for businesses in Texas regarding COVID?
Keep in mind the CDC continues to update and redefine their guidelines regarding COVID. Yes, it’s frustrating with the constant changes in how we do business, however we are still learning about COVID, the transmission of the virus, how to fight it and the best way to keep our workers safe. The current regulations include:
- Employees should get vaccinated: Allow time off for vaccinations and possible side-effects. There’s a great side-benefit for allowing this: Businesses with fewer than 500 employees may be eligible for tax credits under the American Rescue Plan Act if they provide paid time off from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021, for employees who decide to receive the vaccine or to accompany a family or household member to receive the vaccine and to recover from any potential side effects from the vaccine.
- Instruct any workers who are infected, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work.
- Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers.
- Provide workers with face coverings or surgical masks, as appropriate, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE.
- Educate and train workers on your COVID-19 policies and procedures using accessible formats and in languages they understand.
- Suggest or require that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments, and that all customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
- Maintain Ventilation Systems
- Perform routine cleaning and disinfection.
- Record and report COVID-19 infections and deaths: (This is a mandatory requirement)
- Implement protections from retaliation and set up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19-related hazards.
- Follow other applicable mandatory OSHA standards – As previously mentioned.
Strategies for employers to keep workers safe:
There are several things small businesses can do to keep both their employees and the general public that you serve, safe from COVID. Some of these include:
- Allow employees to work from home, if possible.
- Stagger break times to allow less people in one area
- Move desks further apart – allow employees to spread out.
- Provide signage or visual cues to help remind people to wear a mask, wash their hands, or cover a cough.
- Add barriers, if possible, to create space and safety. These may include plexiglass or windows and doors, if necessary.
Here are some excellent websites to help you navigate CDC guidelines and to help make your small business safer:
Tips to protect employee health: Found HERE
State of Texas Info for businesses in relation to COVID: Found HERE
Small business resource for CDC guidelines: Found HERE
For additional resources on CDC guidelines for small businesses, OSHA requirements and how to keep your employees and customer safe, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – serving Paris area: Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties in Texas.