It's a challenging time. For all of us. For children home from school, for parents home with their children, for healthcare workers, for the ill, for the elderly and immune-compromised, for the unemployed, for employees -- and for businesses, large and small, trying to adapt and do the right thing.
What do you need to do as a business to protect the health and safety of your employees, protect the environment, protect your company from liability, and comply with applicable laws? And how do you do it with state and local shelter-in-place laws in place and a shortage of available workers?
There aren't easy answers, but some of the pieces are beginning to fall into place as federal and state agencies have started to promulgate guidance or informal policies to address business obligations -- and under what circumstances certain obligations may be excused.
While each situation is unique and should be addressed on a case by case basis with legal counsel, some common themes apply to most situations:
Ensure the safety of your employees. Evaluate applicable OSHA requirements, including the obligation to consider exposure to Covid-19 in your Injury and Illness Prevention Plan -- and also consider applicable obligations to protect workers from chemicals used to clean and disinfect.
Make best efforts to comply with environmental laws to the extent you can do so without compromising the safety of your employees or violating shelter-in-place laws.
Be aware that some enforcement agencies (or third-party plaintiffs) may consider compliance with environmental laws as an essential business function subject to exemption under the shelter-in-place laws.
If you are unable to comply, document the circumstances and evaluate applicable self-disclosure policies and emerging state and federal standards about notification and record-keeping requirements in the event of non-compliance.
Return to compliance as soon as posssible.