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Coronavirus Safety Tips For Waste And Recycling Workers

Workers in the waste management and recycling industries should consider taking extra precautions.

What We Know (And Don’t Know)

As much as the coronavirus pandemic has upended everyday life throughout the United States (and the world) in recent months, waste and recycling workers have remained on the job. Much of the official guidance concerning the waste management industry has been focused on how healthcare facilities should handle the regulated medical waste associated with COVID-19 infected individuals.

Workers at municipal solid waste (MSW) and recycling collection facilities — as well as sanitation workers doing curbside pickup — are also at higher risk than many other industry groups, and municipalities across the United States have been developing their own COVID-19 policies for protecting employees involved in sanitation, solid waste management, and recycling operations. Most of these policies are based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) general guidance for the waste industry — and businesses involved in the collection or processing of recyclable materials.

This guidance, as well as guidance from the State of Michigan, recommends that all employers develop an infectious disease response plan — and a clear process for developing workplace controls to protect employees. It includes many of the things one would expect, such as actively encouraging sick employees to stay home, and rearranging work stations to maintain social distancing.

It also recommends that employers make efforts to facilitate handwashing, and stagger shifts, start times, and break times to reduce the number of people in break areas at the same time.

Employers are also encouraged to make an effort to educate employees about the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and to cancel or postpone in-person meetings and training whenever possible.

What we don’t know is how various communities and employers are implementing these guidelines, and the extent to which workers are complying. The guidance isn’t mandatory, and as a result, there is inconsistency in how it is being implemented. Also, because of all the media-fueled confusion about what is true — and what is necessary to do in response — everyone is a little confused.

What You Need To Do

If you aren’t receiving good information from your employer about COVID-19 and the plan to keep you safe while on the job, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about the virus, how it is spread, the degree of risk you face, and what the CDC is expecting your employer to be doing to create a safe workplace environment.

You are entitled to see your employer’s COVID-19 response plan, and once you have it in hand you can compare it to the CDC recommendations. You also have the right to talk to your employer, supervisor, or union representative — without fear of retaliation — about your COVID-19 safety concerns.

COVID-19 and Other Legal Issues

In the current environment, there remain many evolving legal issues about whether or not an employee can be forced to work in unsafe conditions. There has been a dramatic rise in requests for legal advice about the whole process of terminations, job layoffs, and furloughs.

Many businesses have laid-off workers or drastically reduced their hours, and millions of people have been forced to stop working. If you are a worker who has been impacted by COVID-19, you may qualify for unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation benefits, or a period of paid/unpaid leave.

At a personal injury law firm like Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. we are also concerned about clients receiving the medical treatment they need — for their health, as well as for their insurance claim — in this new era of social distancing. It can be extra challenging for personal injury plaintiffs to visit their doctor or medical facility these days, and insurance companies are taking note.

Insurance companies know that a plaintiff may be more inclined to settle for less in unsettled times, and won’t hesitate to capitalize on a plaintiff’s fears in settlement negotiations.

Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your employer’s response to COVID-19, or any other legal issue you may have regarding your employment and employment benefits. We helped many individuals and families throughout the state receive the benefits and compensation they need.

While courtrooms are closed right now, Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. is open and cases are moving forward. Written discovery and remote depositions are proceeding, and settlement conferences are happening through video conferencing.

Contact us today toll-free (24 hours) at (866)-868-3779 or use our convenient online contact form to schedule your free consultation. Our law firm never charges a fee unless we win a settlement for your case.

Mark is a freelance writer living near Concord, New Hampshire. He works with a range of businesses and professional associations in their strategic messaging and content development projects. He also provides content development services to nonprofits and government agencies, helping them distill complex topics and make information more accessible across multiple platforms. When he’s not writing, he enjoys working outside and finds mowing his fields on a warm sunny day to be a peak experience.

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