Ohio Launches COVID 19 Responsible Return to Work Program

45 states ordered some form of a “stay in place” order and mandated closures of many types of businesses that have high-customer and worker contact and millions of restaurants, schools, restaurants, bars, salons, barbers, adult day support, vocational habilitation services in a congregate setting, older adult day care services and senior centers, child care services, entertainment, recreation, gymnasiums and other businesses were ordered closed throughout the United States.  Four months into the invasion of COVID 19 into the United States, governors are beginning to lift the business closures most often in a gradual process. 

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has been thoughtfully implementing his Responsible Restart Ohio Plan to reopen the Ohio economy.  While the majority of businesses impacted by early COVID 19 restrictions have been permitted to reopen, Governor DeWine has provided specific guidelines for the reopening of businesses by industry group. 

Ohio Industry Returning to Work Guidelines. A prime goal of Governor DeWine’s manufacturing, distribution, construction and office industries COVID 19 return to work guidelines is to ensure a minimum 6 ft between people, and if not possible, requiring the installation of barriers.  The guidelines state that businesses must require all employees to wear facial coverings, except for one of the following reasons:

• Facial coverings in the work setting are prohibited by law or regulation;

• Facial coverings are in violation of documented industry standards;

• Facial coverings are not advisable for health reasons;

• Facial coverings are in violation of the business’s documented safety policies;

• Facial coverings are not required when the employee works alone in an assigned work area;

• There is a functional (practical) reason for an employee not to wear a facial covering in the

workplace with “practical reasons” to include, but not limited to, high temperatures in facilities or employees separated by more than 6 feet or by a barrier when performing the jobs on the manufacturing floor. 

At a minimum, facial coverings (masks) should be cloth/fabric and cover an individual’s nose, mouth, and chin.

Office settings are required to have frequent disinfection of desks, workstations, and high-contact surfaces, daily disinfection of common areas, cancellation or postpone in person events when social distancing guidelines cannot be met, no buffets in the cafeteria, utilize disposable tableware and other materials, establish maximum capacity for spaces, reduce sharing of work materials, and the posting of signage on health safety guidelines in common areas.

Employees must perform daily symptom assessment, and companies must require employees to stay home if symptomatic, require regular handwashing, stagger or limit arrivals of employees and guests, have employees work from home whenever possible, daily disinfection of desks and workstations, change shift patterns to have fewer shifts, stagger lunch and break times, daily deep disinfection of high-contact surfaces, space factory floor to allow for distancing, regulate maximum number of people in cafeterias/common spaces, and establish a maximum capacity.

From a health care standpoint, Ohio manufactures are required to immediately isolate and seek medical care for any individual who develops symptoms while at work, contact the local health district about suspected cases or exposures, and shutdown shop/floor for deep sanitation if possible. As state economies reopen, changes in industry reopening standards can be expected.  As cases are rising in states across the United States, renewed workplace restrictions can be anticipated.