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COMPLIANCE

What, if anything, does OSHA require you to do to protect telecommuters?

While telecommuting is nothing new, the imperative for using it has never been greater. In addition to all the cost-saving, work-life balance, recruiting and hiring advantages, letting employees work from home during a pandemic has become a vital infection control measure. But it also poses significant compliance challenges, particularly in the realm of OSHA. After all, how are you supposed to meet your duty to protect the health and safety of office employees if they work from home at a location beyond your physical control? This article will provide the answer. Spoiler alert: OSHA requirements don’t generally extend to employees working from home; but you still can and should take some basic steps to ensure their health and safety. OSHA & telecommuters The Occupational Safety and Health Act (Section 4(a))… . . . read more

TOOL

Telecommuter home office hazard assessment & inspection checklist

While not an OSHA obligation, it’s highly advisable to take measures to protect the health and safety of telecommuting office employees who work from home. How? By having employees seeking approval to telecommute designate a room or area as their home workspace and arranging for somebody to perform a hazard assessment inspection to verify that the workspace is safe, healthy and appropriate for the proposed use. Option 1: Have an office supervisor or manager visit the site and do a physical walk-through inspection; Option 2: Have the employee videotape the space and/or submit detailed photos and a floor plan and do the inspection virtually; Option 3: Have the employee inspect the space himself/herself. Whoever does the assessment should use the Checklist below.

COVID & Telework

Are employers responsible/liable for an employee’s home ergonomics, safety and expenses?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: COVID-19 has caused employers large and small to require the employers work from home rather than their employer’s worksites. Word has it that this may continue beyond weeks and months and become the new normal. What is my employer’s responsibility/liability for workplace ergonomics and safety when my home becomes my workplace? Do they need to compensate me for my expenses in upgrading my WIFI and getting a new office chair? Answer: “That depends,” says FisherBroyles management-side employment attorney Eric Meyer. According to Meyer, because the “Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions–even outside of the normal workplace, employers technically have a duty to protect remote workers at home.” “But in reality,” notes Meyer, OSHA won’t inspect employees’ home offices. Additionally,… . . . read more

TOOL

Model mandatory face mask policy

More than 20 states have enacted laws requiring the use of face masks or coverings in indoor public places. Here’s a Model Policy incorporating current legal requirements and public health guidance that you can adapt for your own lab.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Coworker exposed all of us to COVID-19

By Lynne Curry bio Question For weeks, “Carolyn” told the five of us in our department that she had allergies whenever any of us asked her about her sneezing. She worked with us in the same building, used the same copier, restroom and office fridge and handled the same coffeepot. I tried to avoid her because she kept forgetting her mask and didn’t seem to understand what six feet of separation meant. I saw that she didn’t use sanitizing wipes after she used the copier or coffeepot, so I wiped the copier before I used it and started bringing my own coffee from home. I didn’t talk with the others about this because I’m not a gossip. I regret that now. Because Carolyn’s and my job overlapped and I have… . . . read more

COMPLIANCE

How to create and implement a mandatory face mask policy at your law office

What began as a CDC guideline is evolving into a legal duty with more than 20 states and countless municipalities across the country adopting laws requiring individuals to wear masks or face coverings in enclosed indoor public spaces. As a result, law offices must adopt and enforce mandatory mask policies at their facilities. While mask requirements vary slightly by jurisdiction, here are the 10 basic elements they should include. Defining our terms  This analysis is about non-medical face masks that people at medium at low risk levels are required to wear, as opposed to N95 particulate respirators and more elaborate respiratory equipment, eye and face shields other personal protection equipment (PPE) required for health workers and others with a higher risk of infection. Policy statement Start by stating that all… . . . read more

TECHNOLOGY

Take advantage of case management software benefits

By Elizabeth Miller  bio Case management software is now so popular in law firms that it is rare to hear of a firm that does not have it. The problem is that even though firms have the software, they don’t take advantage of all the benefits. Managing incoming leads and cases Give your law firm an advantage over other firms by providing potential clients with an exceptional experience without the need for face to face interaction. Offer your clients e-signature to sign retainer agreements and other documents from anywhere. Digitize your client intake with forms making it efficient and convenient to sign on with your firm. Centralized case details The great thing about case management software is that all client information, communications, time entries and notes are in one place. … . . . read more

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Use contact logging to ensure law office employees practice social distancing

Managing a law office compliance program in the age of COVID-19 poses new and unprecedented challenges. One of the biggest and most important is ensuring that employees and the persons they interact with on the job follow social distancing requirements. To succeed in this effort, you must have the capability to track actual encounters. One possibility is digital technology, the use of apps, wearables and other so called “contact tracing” solutions that monitor encounters in real time. But in addition to being highly privacy-invasive, these solutions may be too costly and cumbersome for many offices. So, you may want to consider using this cheaper, easier and less intrusive manual method instead. What’s at stake Without a vaccine or treatment, social distancing, i.e., keeping at least six feet away from other… . . . read more

EMPLOYERS FOOT THE BILL

Feds say insurers not required to pay for employer return to work COVID-19 testing

Since the public health emergency began, the US government has taken the position that insurers shouldn’t be allowed to make consumers pay for COVID-19 lab tests. But now comes news that insurers will not be put in that same position with regard to return to work screening conducted on employees by their employers. FFCRA rules for COVID-19 test payment The key piece of federal relief legislation, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), required insurers to cover COVID-19 tests without imposing any copayments, deductibles, coinsurance or other patient cost-sharing. But the rule (Section 6001 of FFCRA) rule applied only to tests deemed “medically appropriate” by a healthcare provider. The key question: Would insurers also have to foot the bill for screening tests not used for diagnosis and treatment? Apparently, the answer… . . . read more

Tool: Model COVID-19 Medical Screening Policy

Regulators have made it clear that given the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may implement pre-screening measures to ensure that people who have or may have the virus don’t get into work and spread it to others. But limits still apply and you can get into a lot of trouble if you don’t follow them. Here’s a Model Policy your firm can adapt that provides for the necessary privacy, health and safety, non-discrimination and other protections.


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