At a press conference today Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced new guidelines for businesses as the state begins reopening. She announced two sets of guidance, one for businesses that interact with the public and another for manufacturing and construction. There had been talk before her press conference that Hidalgo would announce an extension of the Stay Home Work Safe order through June 10th, which she confirmed vaguely and said it would be signed later today without going into specifics. Hidalgo said the extension would be consistent with Governor Abbott’s order.
The following is the press release the county issued this afternoon detailing the suggested guidance for businesses:
Harris County Judge Announces Worker Protection Guidelines for Businesses, Manufacturing & Construction Reopening during Pandemic
Minimum Health Protocols Established to Protect Workers, Customers by Preventing Rapid Spread of COVID-19
Harris County, Texas - May 21, 2020, County Judge Lina Hidalgo today announced worker protection guidelines for retail businesses and construction sites as they reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommended guidelines, which include screening workers for symptoms, conducting routine disinfection, and staggering shifts when practicable, intend to provide baseline safeguards to ensure employees and customers are protected as facilities open for business and construction activity increases.
“It’s not enough to call essential workers our heroes – we need to show our appreciation by protecting them and creating an environment that supports safe and sustainable economic activity,” Judge Hidalgo said. “We’ve heard from workers who don’t feel safe, and we’ve heard from employers who are struggling to navigate a patchwork of local, state and federal orders. These guidelines serve as a bridge from policy to practice, creating a baseline expectation of safety whether you’re a construction worker stepping onto a job site, a custodian at a small business, or a senior citizen going to buy groceries.”
Some of the minimum health protocols for both retail businesses and the construction workforce include the following:
·Employers should avoid adverse action against workers who have been quarantined because of possible COVID-19 exposure, submit complaints, or decline to work because of health concerns
·Employers should be flexible with hours and use staggered shifts to reduce the number of employees arriving and leaving at the same time
·Workers and contractors should be screened for symptoms before entering the building or job site, and any worker or contractor with a temperature above 100F should be sent home, with the employer notifying the health department and informing all workers who may have been in contact with the individual
·Workers should wear face coverings
·Workers should not return to work if they are sick
Before reopening, retail businesses should perform HVAC maintenance and change air filters, clean and disinfect all areas, and designate a safety monitor to ensure guidelines are followed. Once open, retail businesses should provide rest breaks at least once an hour so workers can follow hygiene guidelines, provide information for employees on how workers can report any health or safety concerns, and follow CDC guidance for regular cleaning and disinfection, hand washing, and social distancing. Retail businesses should also designate a safety monitor on each site who has the authority to oversee and ensure guidelines are followed. Retail businesses should keep a list of contact information for every employee who enters the store every day.
Construction companies should identify a qualified workplace coordinator who will be responsible for COVID-19 assessment and control planning, and all employees should know how to contact this coordinator with any health or safety concerns. Additionally, companies should provide rest breaks of at least 15 minutes for every four hours worked so workers may follow hygiene guidelines, disinfect large machinery after use by each equipment operator, and ensure every worker or contractor who enters a job site signs in, and the company maintains a list of contact information for works to enable contact tracing should it be needed.
These guidelines represent only baseline best practices, and businesses are encouraged to adopt additional protocols consistent with their specific needs and circumstances to help protect the health and safety of people in Harris County.
Free COVID-19 testing is available for everyone, and workers are encouraged to complete an updated online self-assessment tool on ReadyHarris.org. Workers who do not have access to the online self-assessment tool can call 832-927-7575 to be scheduled for testing. Free testing is available regardless of citizenship status and for those who are uninsured.