Don’t Be Penalized for COVID-19 Non-Compliance!
With the gradual reopening of businesses in New York State, there are guidelines for businesses that wish to reopen their workplaces. Familiarizing yourself with these guidelines will help you avoid the accompanying penalties. Keep reading to find out more about what steps your business needs to take.
Since March, New York State has put into effect several measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect its residents during the current pandemic. Some of those measures include limiting in-person work, paid leave for certain employees, phased reopening of nonessential businesses, requiring a business reopening safety plan, and mandatory health and safety protocol. These measures are already being enforced by the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDL).
However, since New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced the reopening of businesses, albeit in phases, an increasing number of businesses are getting into trouble for not following the guidelines for businesses to minimize COVID-19 risk and exposure in their workplaces. Some businesses have been handed hefty fines as the city and state step up enforcement of the new COVID-19 restriction given the sharp increase in the number of hospitalizations owing to the soaring rates of infection in some areas.
Want to ensure your business remains compliant? It’s easier when you know the steps.
The necessary steps New York businesses must take before reopening:
· Develop a safety plan, write it down, and post it at your workplace to remind your employees and consumers of the precautions to take. It helps to make your workplace safer and minimize the risk of infection in your business environment. You do not need to submit the plan to a state agency for approval but must be retained on the premises of the business and made available to local health and safety authorities in the event of an inspection.
· Study the New York State (NYS) guidelines and electronically affirm that you have read and will adhere to the guidelines specific to your industry. The state requires that you affirm that you understand the state-issued industry guidelines and that you will implement them. The affirmation form can be filled here.
Four key actions to prevent COVID-19 transmission, which every business must adhere to:
· If you feel sick, stay home: Stay home if you feel sick unless you are going for essential medical care (including COVID-19 testing) or other essential duties.
· Practice Social distancing: Even if you feel well, try as much as possible to stay at home. When in public places, keep at least 6 feet distance from others. Avoid unnecessary physical interactions.
· Wear a face mask: You can be contagious without symptoms and spread the disease when you cough, sneeze, or talk. So, always wear your face masks, and cover your cough and sneezes using your elbow or tissue. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Face masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
· Wash your hands: Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash your hands with soap and water. Regularly clean frequently touched surfaces.
Additionally, employers are advised to adhere to the following precautions:
· Implement mandatory health screening practices before employees begin each workday, which must be reviewed and documented. Your screening may include asking about COVID-19 symptoms, positive COVID-19 test results; and history of close contact with anyone who tested positive or who has symptoms of COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
· If an employee test positive for COVID-19, immediately notify the state and local health departments and cooperate with contact tracing efforts, while maintaining confidentiality required by applicable federal and state law and regulations.
· Implement a plan for closing, cleaning, and disinfecting the workplace in the event of a positive case.
The best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect employees is to continue to work from home if possible. However, you may reopen your workplace for business after following the above-mentioned steps.
New York City’s Localized Restrictions: What You Should Know
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced that the Commissioner of Health will send an order to COVID-19 hot spot local governments to establish a framework for reporting their enforcement activities and setting specific consequences for failure to enforce the State Department of Health Emergency Regulations, as well as the Governor’s Executive Orders about social distancing, mask compliance, and capacity limitations. Local governments that do not enforce these legally binding requirements will be in violation of the order and may be subject to fines.
“The Commissioner of Health will issue a Section 16 order to the local governments advising them that they have to step up the compliance, that it is the law and if the local governments don’t step up the compliance, they will actually be in violation of the law and they can be fined. I have asked the local governments many times to actually do the compliance,” Governor Cuomo said. “Compliance is not public education, it is enforcement. People know what the rules are and they’ve heard them every day. Local governments have to do enforcement. Whether or not it fits with their political agenda really is pointless. It’s the law and their job is to enforce the law.” Failure to adhere to the order can result in penalties of up to $10,000 per day, according to Section 12-b of the state Public Health Law.
In red cluster areas, mass gathering is banned, and penalties of up to $15,000 a day apply for violations of the mass gathering rules. For houses of worship, 25% capacity or a maximum of 10 people apply. Nonessential businesses have been shut down, and schools are to switch all-remote. There are fines of up to $1,000 a day for social distancing and mask-wearing infractions, with Mayor Bill de Blasio warning that people who do not adhere to the rule will face consequences.https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/doh/downloads/pdf/imm/covid-19-reopening-offices-guidance.pdf