Going back to work amid COVID-19

Submitted by Washington State Department of Health.

As we reopen more businesses throughout the state, more of us are going back to work. As we do, you may have some questions about work and COVID-19. We did. So we worked with our friends at the Department of Labor & Industries to explore what types of occupations and industries people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in Washington worked in. You can see what we found in a report from the Department of Health at https://bit.ly/2YpgeZ0.

The highest number of COVID-19 cases in Washington is among people who work in health care and social assistance. The manufacturing industry has the second-highest number of cases. This includes traditional manufacturing businesses as well as food processing facilities. It’s important to note that while the risk for contracting COVID-19 may be higher for people depending on their industry or occupation, this report reflects where people work, not where or how they were infected.

Frequently Asked Questions:

How is my employer keeping me safe?

When you go to work, you have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. Your employer is required to make sure you can stay six feet away from others as much as possible, to frequently clean and sanitize the workplace, and make sure you are able to wash your hands frequently.

Employers must follow this guidance:

• L&I Workplace Safety and Health Guidance, https://bit.ly/31aAMGw.

• United States Department of Labor Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19, https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf.

• Washington State Department of Health Workplace and Employer Resources & Recommendations, https://www.doh.wa.gov/Coronavirus/workplace.

In addition, as a part of the Safe Start program, the governor has guidance for specific industries as they reopen, https://bit.ly/3cYeutD.

I do not believe my employer is following this guidance.

The first thing you should do is talk to your employer about this and try to resolve the issue with them. If that doesn’t work, you have two options to report possible safety violations:

Violations of the Governor’s proclamation, including essential businesses not following social distancing requirements, can be reported online, https://bit.ly/2YVE5hO.

Workplace safety complaints about coronavirus or other issues can be filed by calling L&I directly at 800–423–7233.

And if you think you have been retaliated against for filing a complaint, or for bringing up safety concerns to your employer, you can file a complaint.

If I got COVID-19 at work, could I file a workers compensation claim?

Under certain circumstances, yes. Claims from health care workers and first responders for exposure to coronavirus will be allowed. Other claims that meet certain criteria for exposure will be considered on a case-by-case basis. For a claim to be accepted, there must be a documented or probable work-related exposure, and an employee/employer relationship.

Do I need to wear a mask at work?

Yes. Most employees must wear a face mask or a cloth facial covering at work. Exceptions include when you are working alone, or if you are Deaf or hard of hearing or communicate with someone who needs to see your face and mouth to understand what you are saying. Your employer is required to provide a facial covering or mask. The Department of Labor & Industries has more information in these guides: Coronavirus Facial Covering (https://www.lni.wa.gov/agency/_docs/wacoronavirushazardconsiderationsemployers.pdf) and Mask Requirements, Which Mask for Which Task (https://www.lni.wa.gov/forms-publications/F414-168-000.pdf).