Workers report Covid-related health and safety violations

Covid. For the week of Nov. 5-12, there were 378 reports of violations, all but three reported by private-sector workers. The New Jersey Departments of Labor and Health encourages workers to file complaints.

20 Nov 2020 | 05:21

The New Jersey Departments of Labor and Health have received hundreds of reports of alleged Covid-related workplace health and safety violations in the week since Gov. Murphy’s executive order expanding workforce protections took effect.

For the week of Nov. 5-12, there were 378 reports of violations, all but three reported by private-sector workers.

The governor’s order requires employers to follow state health and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines on mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, and cleaning high-touch areas. The order created a reporting mechanism for private- and public-sector employees who believe their employers are not following safety protocols. The online complaint form may be found at bit.ly/3fqCNU8.

“Workers who have to perform their job duties on-site during COVID-19 have the right to workplaces that put their health and safety first,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.

The goal is education and compliance, not punishment and penalties. “It is not difficult to comply with these common-sense protocols,” Asaro-Angelo said. “State business groups agree that the overwhelming majority of employers are already taking needed precautions to protect themselves and others in their families and community.”

Health and safety experts say the main reason for the discrepancy in complaints from private- and public-sector employees is that public employees have had a complaint mechanism available through the Health Department all along, while the Governor’s executive order extended protections to private-sector workers. Throughout the pandemic, the Department of Health has investigated roughly 290 COVID-related cases and responded to more than 650 COVID-related workplace issues.

Additional health and safety protocols already in place for certain businesses will continue to apply. Existing sector-specific protocols can be reviewed at covid19.nj.gov/pages/safetystandards.

Tthe Labor Department has launched a websit, nj.gov/labor/covidsafety, with information on the new health and safety requirements, as well as an intake form allowing employees to report suspected violations. The Labor Department reviews the reports and, depending on the nature and severity of the complaint, performs further fact-finding and investigation with support from the Department of Health.

Local boards of health should refer reports related to Executive Order No. 192 to NJDOL at covid.safety@dol.nj.gov.

Executive Order No. 192 mandates private- and public-sector employers to adhere to certain health and safety standards at in-person workplaces, including:
Workers must stay at least six feet apart whenever possible, and requiring employees and visitors to wear masks upon entering worksites with limited exceptions.
Face masks must be provided to employees free of charge by their employer.
Employers must provide, at no cost, approved sanitization materials to employees and visitors.
Employers must ensure employees exercise proper hand hygiene, including by providing them with sufficient break time to do so.
Employers must sanitize frequently touched areas regularly per Department of Health and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.
Employers must implement daily health checks per CDC guidance.
Employers must require sick employees to stay home while also complying with any applicable leave laws.
Employers must give timely notification to employees of any known exposure to Covid-19 at the workplace.