Should Your Small Business Require Face Masks at Work?

Topics: Small Business

Summary: Based on guidelines from the CDC, in September 2021, the NSC and OSHA updated their workplace safety recommendations regarding face masks at work for employers. This article will discuss these new guidelines and the considerations business owners should take to keep their employees safe from the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Updated COVID-19 Workplace Safety Guidelines

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recently released new recommendations for employers regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and face masks in the workplace. With the COVID-19 Delta variant surging across the country, OSHA is now urging employers to consider reinstating face masks at worksites, especially in “areas of substantial or high community transmission.” These recommendations are meant to help prevent workers from exposure and infection no matter their vaccination status.

Likewise, the National Safety Council (NSC) requested that all employers implement a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for employees, stating that the vaccine is the best route to ensure worker safety and wellbeing. The NSC conducted a survey that revealed when employers require workers to get the vaccine, there was a 35% increase in staff members receiving their first dose. This recommendation came before President Biden’s latest federal vaccine mandate requirement announced in early September, an attempt to push vaccination on the 80 million Americans who have not yet received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 Safety Recommendations for Public Health

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The Delta variant is a highly contagious form of COVID-19, leading to a spike in COVID-19 cases in late July. The increase in cases comes despite the fact that the vaccine is now widely available throughout the U.S. The variant has quickly spread around the globe and is now responsible for an estimated 80% of cases in the U.S.

In mid-August 2021, the CDC released new guidelines for continued health and safety as the Delta variant continues to cause surges in cases countrywide. To help reduce the spread of the variant and to decrease their own risk of infection, the CDC recommends fully vaccinated people:
  • Continue to wear masks in areas of substantial or high transmission or when they are around immunocompromised or unvaccinated individuals
  • Get tested if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  • Isolate themselves if they test positive for COVID-19
  • Get tested 3-5 days after exposure to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19
  • Follow all applicable federal, state, local or territorial laws, health rules and regulations
The CDC also states that vaccines are playing a crucial role in reducing the spread of COVID-19. Vaccination is the most effective means of protecting yourself, others and the community from serious illness and death.

Employer Mask Mandates: What Should Small Business Owners Do?

What do these latest safety recommendations mean to employers? While COVID-19 infects only a small percentage of fully vaccinated individuals, new reports show that fully vaccinated people who are infected with the Delta variant can more easily spread the virus to others. It’s a business owner’s responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all employees, regardless of vaccination status.

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For this reason, the NSC is calling on all employers to require their teams to get the vaccine. The NSC released the Safer Vaccine Requirement Spectrum, a guide business owners can follow to implement such a requirement. These include:
  • Honor System: Require vaccination to return to work or loosen mask mandates without proof of vaccination status.
  • Partial Requirement: Require workers to show proof of vaccination status or agree to regular COVID-19 testing.
  • Soft Requirement: Workers may return to certain job functions or enter a workplace by showing proof of vaccination status.
  • Hard Requirement: Workers must show proof of vaccination status to be allowed to continue to work.

Updated OSHA COVID-19 Workplace Best Practices

OSHA also has best practices for employers to ensure workers are protected on the job. Some preventative measures include staggering schedules to allow fewer workers on-site at any given time, allowing employees to work remotely when possible, establishing enhanced cleaning programs for high-touch surfaces and physical distancing. Due to the surge in new COVID-19 cases, OSHA also recommends employers consider reinstating mask mandates and, like the NSC, suggests employers implement vaccination mandates as well. Many well-known, large corporations like Walmart and Uber, along with several airlines and technology companies, are requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

AmTrust’s David Lawhorn, Director of Loss Control, says, “As cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant have surged in the United States, employers should look to implement CDC and OSHA best practices for protecting their workforce. This includes wearing masks, receiving COVID-19 vaccinations, social distancing, and completing regular COVID-19 testing.”

Some employers may have concerns that a vaccine mandate could result in an increase in workplace discrimination claims. However, federal law permits employers to implement vaccination mandates, and EEOC laws do not prohibit employers from requiring all employees to get the vaccine to be allowed to work.

Small Business Insurance Solutions from AmTrust Financial

AmTrust Financial underwrites over 350 class codes, making us an ideal fit for businesses in a variety of industries. We have the products you need to protect your business, from our customized Businessowners Policy to our robust Workers’ Compensation coverage. We've also created a library of resources regarding the coronavirus and funding resources to help small businesses, agents and others stay informed, safe and healthy. For more information about our small business insurance solutions, please contact us today.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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