After living with COVID-19 for the last five weeks, we all have a basic understanding of the disease, as well as basic practices to keep ourselves safe. Now spring is in full swing, how do these practices apply to the green industry professionals?
Directed health measure (DHM) guidelines published by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services on March 27th and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department on March 25th, do not currently restrict lawn care or arborist companies from their work.
But it is critical for employers to protect their workers and clientele. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have published guidelines to help employers ensure a safe working environment entitled Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers, cdc-guidance. The goal is to reduce transmission between employees, maintain a healthy workplace and maintain healthy business operations. Below are tips for green industry professionals such as lawn, landscape and tree workers.
Reducing Transmission Between Employees
- Insist sick employees stay home. Follow home isolation, as recommended by the CDC and in consultation with healthcare providers.
- Employees who are well but have a sick family member at home should notify their supervisor and follow CDC recommended precautions.
- Workers should maintain adequate social distance from office staff and other employees.
Maintain a Healthy Workplace
- Frequent hand washing is the first line of defense.
- Make sure all restrooms and trucks are stocked with water, anti-bacterial soap and single use towels. At the very least, keep a supply of hand sanitizer in each truck.
- Frequently clean restrooms, break rooms, and frequently-touched workplace surfaces (phones, time clocks, keyboards, door knobs, tables, truck interiors).
- Make tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles available to workers.
- If work trucks have a drinking water cooler, make sure they are sanitized daily and workers have single-use cups available.
- Limit crew sizes and the number of people in each work truck.
- CDC now recommends the use of cloth face coverings in settings where maintaining a 6-foot social distance is difficult, which would include a small truck cab.
- Workers should maintain adequate social distance when talking with clientele.
- Workers should refrain from shaking hands with clientele.
Maintain a Healthy Business
- Develop a business operation plan in the event key employees become sick or absenteeism due to family illness.
- Ensure sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance. And that employees are aware of and understand your policies.
- Employers that do not currently offer sick leave to some or all of their employees may want to draft non-punitive “emergency sick leave” policies. Employers should not require a positive COVID-19 test result or a healthcare providers note for employees to validate their or a family members illness.
- Many landscape workers live paycheck to paycheck and would be in serious financial trouble if they couldn’t work. If workers cannot work due to illness or must be laid off temporarily, make them aware of the Nebraska Emergency Unemployment Insurance Benefit Relief – Part I & Part II, which offers several benefits in the form of changes to standard unemployment policies.
- Finally, the newly passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act contains $349 billion in relief for small businesses and workers. If your business will struggle to pay laid-off workers, discuss options with your local funder, Nebraska Business Development Center, or the Small Business Administration (SBA), for the latest information on the CARES Act and application assistance.