On April 7, 2019, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7V (“Order 7V”), requiring that “[e]very workplace in the State of Connecticut shall take additional protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 between and among employees, customers, and other persons such as delivery drivers, maintenance people or others who may enter the workplace.” Order 7V, available here, directed the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) and the Department of Health (DPH) to issue “legally binding statewide rules” prescribing additional protective measures for “essential” businesses and nonprofits and any other businesses permitted to operate pursuant to Gov. Lamont’s prior Order 7H, available here.

The DECD and DPH subsequently issued the Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employers (the “Rules”), available here. Pursuant to the Order 7H, these statewide Rules are mandatory and effective immediately.  The Rules provide essential businesses with specific measures that must be implemented immediately and therefore applicable businesses should review the Rules to ensure compliance. The Rules include the following:

  • General

The Rules begin by directing “[e]ssential employees who are able to work from home, SHOULD BE WORKING FROM HOME.”  (emphasis in original)

Employees should wear a facemask at all times while in the workplace.  Employers can issue facemasks or can approve employee-supplied, cloth face coverings in the event of shortages.  Such coverings must be compliant with all safety requirements of the workplace.

Essential businesses are required to eliminate all non-essential travel and control access to external visitors, including prohibiting entry for non-essential visitors.  Essential businesses must also interview visitors about their current health condition and recent travel history and place hand sanitizer at the entry to the workplace.

Essential businesses should also distribute to employees summaries of health insurance processes and procedures.

  • Controlling contact between employees and other employees or customers

Essential businesses should develop and implement practices for social distancing by: eliminating in-person meetings, discouraging carpooling, increasing physical space between employees and customers (e.g. drive through, Plexiglas partitions), delivering services remotely where practical, and delivering products through curbside pick-up or delivery, when possible.

Essential businesses are also instructed to close or restrict break rooms and cafeterias, if possible, and ask employees to bring lunches from home and eat at their workstations or in their cars.  If employers continue to maintain break or lunch rooms, they should utilize extra rotations to reduce the number of employees using the rooms at one time (to enforce social distancing) and provide hand sanitizer and/or disposable wipes in the rooms and to clean them after every shift. Essential businesses should also increase the circulation of outdoor air in the workplace and where possible, segment the workplace into discreet zones so that Employees are prohibited from entering zones where they are not required to be to perform their jobs.

For workplaces with multiple shifts, where possible, essential businesses should utilize nights and weekends to spread out work schedules and provide for social distancing, move from 1 or 2 shifts to 3 shifts, if possible, and keep each shift with the same people each day so that if a person on one shift becomes sick, workers on the other shifts are protected.  Essential businesses are instructed to provide time between shifts to allow for cleaning of the work place, and stagger start and stop times, break times and lunchtimes to minimize “congregations at the time clocks or break areas.”

Manufacturers are instructed to shut down facilities when production is not needed whenever practical (even if they ramp on and off on a daily basis).

  • Eliminating transmission points

Essential businesses are instructed to reduce common touch points by opening internal doors where possible and frequently cleaning all touch points.  It is recommended that disposable wipes be provided so that commonly used surfaces (doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks and other work tools and equipment) can be wiped down.

Employees should be prohibited from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment, when possible. Employees should clean their personal workspace at the beginning and end of every shift. If a sick employee is suspected or confirmed, essential employers are to follow the CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

  • Guidelines for essential employees

The Rules state that employees who are ill should stay home. Where possible, employees should take their temperature before they go to work, and if they have a temperature of over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, they should stay home.

Hand sanitizer must be made available to employees who to do not have ready access to soap and water.  All employees, whether at work or at home, are advised to follow the CDC Guidelines for preventing transmission of COVID-19, i.e., frequent hand washing, avoid touching mouth and nose, avoid close contact, and use cough and sneeze etiquette.

Employers should place posters that encourage hand hygiene at the entrance to the workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen.

  • Guidelines for employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have had close contact with a person who has been diagnosed or has symptoms

Other than healthcare workers and first responders (guidance for which can be found here), employees who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have symptoms (i.e. fever, cough or shortness of breath), should stay home.  Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps, isoloate from the rest of their family, and should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation is met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws.

Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed or who has symptoms should notify their supervisor, and consult a healthcare provider and follow CDC recommended precautions.

  • Additional rules specific to construction sites

The Rules include measures the construction industry must take, includingcleaning portable bathrooms no less than every 2 days; limiting shift size,;maximizing the amount of work being performed outdoors; limiting indoor or other work that lacks significant fresh air,;requiring employees to travel separately to and from, and within, worksitesand providing an adequate supply of PPE, including, but not limited to masks, gloves and hand sanitizer.

  • Safe store rules for essential retailers

The Rules state that for essential retailers, the Essential Safe Store Rules (which became effective on April 3, 2020) will continue to guide safety measures for employers and customers.  The Essential Safe Store Rules require all retailers to cap occupancy at 50% of store capacity and require staff to maintain a count of the number of customers entering and exiting the store.  These rules also require retailers to do the following:

    • Clearly mark 6 feet space in lines on floor at checkout lines and other high traffic areas and provide ways to encourage 6 feet spacing in lines outside store
    • Have aisles in stores be one-way, where practicable, to maximize spacing
    • Install Plexiglas shields to separate employees from customers at checkout lines and other areas in the store where practicable
    • The full list of rules is available here

What to do now? 

Essential businesses should review the rules in their entirety and determine how to apply them to their businesses and consult an EBG attorney with any questions.

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