NJ Employers Must Adhere to COVID-19 Safety Protocols via Latest Executive Order
BY ANTHONY BIRRITTERI, NJBIA, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF ON OCT 28, 2020
Gov. Phil Murphy today signed Executive Order 192 that establishes health and safety standards for public- and private-sector workplaces in order to protect employees from the coronavirus.
To go into effect at 6 a.m., Nov. 5, the order also creates an online complaint intake form that workers can use if employers do not follow the established safety guidelines.
Murphy said he is taking these actions because the federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has failed to do so. “We will step up where Washington, D.C. has failed to lead,” he said via a Facebook Live conference.
The EO covers three key areas:
- Establishes workplace health and safety standards that will cover all New Jersey-based workers in both the private and public sectors.
- Creates a collaborative enforcement mechanism to ensure that complaints and reports of noncompliance are properly addressed.
- Makes sure workers are informed of their rights and that employers are informed of their obligations.
At a minimum, Murphy said these standards require all workers to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to every shift, and that workers must maintain at least 6 feet of distance from one another “to the maximum extent possible.” The standards also require employees and visitors to wear masks when entering the worksite, subject to certain limited exceptions.
Other protocols require employers to:
- Provide approved sanitization materials to employees and visitors at no cost to those individuals;
- Ensure that employees practice hand hygiene and provide sufficient break time for that purpose;
- Routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with DOH and CDC guidelines;
- Conduct daily health checks, such as temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, and/or health questionnaires, prior to each shift, consistent with CDC guidance;
- Exclude sick employees from the workplace and follow requirements of applicable leave laws; and
- Promptly notify employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite.
To ensure compliance, Murphy said that the online complaint intake form will go live next week.
The state Department of Labor & Workforce Development, as well as Department of Health, will create investigatory protocols to assist employers with compliance. The agencies will also pursue enforcement actions when necessary, “including the ability to shut down a workplace if an employer continues to be noncompliant and puts the health and safety of workers at risk,” Murphy said.
Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association said in a written statement that “today’s directive makes New Jersey an outlier in terms of mandates – without any balance whatsoever for the concerns of employers. Policymakers must strike a better balance toward trying to help our employers by prioritizing legislation for liability protections supporting those businesses that are doing the right thing already – in addition to bringing them more sorely needed resources,” Siekerka said.
“Sadly, we heard no such balance from the governor today. We only heard about applying more financial burdens on the same job creators who simultaneously have many of the greatest capacity restrictions in the nation.” (Please click here for Siekerka’s complete statement).
The Department of Labor is developing worksite notices and materials regarding the EO and safety standards. It is also creating a training program to ensure “employees are aware of their rights and that employers are aware of their obligations,” Murphy said. The training program is being developed in concert with Rutgers University and members of the Protect NJ Workers Coalition.
DOL Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said the executive order “will help the state, DOL and DOH monitor and enforce critical COVID-19 protocols because “going to work without fearing for your safety and your life is one of the most basic things.
“Our trained teams may now investigate and address worker complaints of insufficient compliance at public- and private-sector [workplaces] as we rebuild back from this ongoing pandemic. Bottom line: We are here to help,” Asaro-Angelo said. “This is about the safety of all of us and every single worker.”
Click here for a Copy of Executive Order No. 192.
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