Employers no doubt are focused on ensuring worker safety at their facilities. What they may be overlooking, though, is worker safety when working at customer sites and other off-site locations.
Employers have a responsibility to provide their workers with a safe workplace. While employers can control their own facilities, they generally lack control over customer or other third-party locations at which their employees may be assigned to work. What can employers do in these circumstances to fulfill their obligation to provide a safe workplace? There are several simple steps employers can take to do this.
Employers would be well-advised to confirm with the customer/third party that they comply with—and will continue to comply with—requirements and guidance issued by federal, state and local public health officials, such as the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, as they may be updated from time to time. Wherever possible, employers should obtain a written compliance certification from the customer/third party documenting this commitment. Employers also should consider requesting or requiring that the customer/third party report any confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 among its employees or visitors, or symptomatic or quarantined employees or visitors, with respect to the off-site work location occurring within five days of the assigned employee working at those premises.
The employer should provide employees working at off-site work locations with appropriate personal protective equipment (such as masks and gloves) and should train them on safe practices, including social distancing. Employees who work off-site also should be strongly encouraged to report any circumstances they feel are unsafe, and acknowledge their obligation to do so in writing. Upon receiving any such reports, the employer should act promptly to remediate any safety issues, which may include engaging in a dialogue with the customer/third-party operator of the off-site work location.
Employers can—and should—take steps to ensure the safety of their workers even when they are working at third-party locations.