As COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, the fact is that we truly don’t know how long the effects will last. What we do know is that the City of Nashville is reopening – safely, in phases, and in a process designed to ensure the protection of public health.
For our factory workers who have been on furlough or experiencing cut hours, this means a welcome return to normal. Workers at factories like Nissan, General Motors, Gibson, and other major employers may soon return to their jobs. The roadmap for opening Nashville’s economy and businesses aims to proceed in four phases, proceeding to the next phase only if there’s stable to positive improvement or stability for two weeks.
Phase One begins when coronavirus metrics are stable or improve for 14 days. Businesses and restaurants will begin opening at half capacity. Phase Two, opening up wider, won’t begin until metrics are stable or improve for 14 days. If metrics worsen, the city will revert to Phase Two. This will continue through Phase Four and, finally, a complete reopening. The actual timeline on this, of course, depends on daily coronavirus updates from the State of Tennessee.
When you go back to work
Everyone is at risk for injuries on the job, but factory workers experience different types of hazards due to the environment in which they work. And, due to the typical close quarters of warehouse and factories, workers may also be open to additional risks of virus contagion. Workers can face injuries like:
- Back and neck injuries
- Knee and shoulder injuries
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Musculoskeletal disorders
- Repetitive stress injuries
Further, essential factory and warehouse workers have already reported being afraid to go to work, citing fears of exposure to coronavirus. Close working conditions, shared timeclock scanners, and lack of paid sick leave make it dangerous to go to work, say some employees. “There’s parts of the line where you’re literally rubbing elbows with each other. I’m washing my hands more, but I’m still worried,” one worker told ProPublica, asking to remain anonymous.
Manufacturing plant and factory employees across the country are facing virtual breeding grounds for coronavirus when they go to work each day. Tyson, a large employer of many Tennesseans, recently made the news after shutting down a plant in Iowa when multiple workers tested positive for COVID-19. According to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, as of April 27 there have been at least 4,135 reported positive cases tied to meatpacking facilities at 75 plants in 25 states, and at least 18 reported worker deaths at nine plants in nine states.
What does this mean? Workers need protection. New guidelines from OSHA provide recommendations for employers in meat and processing plants to provide proper safety for their workers.
How your employer must keep you safe
According to the Roadmap for Opening Nashville, your employer is required to keep you safe while on the job. Best practices should include:
- Screen daily all employees with temperature and respiratory symptom checks.
- Employees with temperatures of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit must leave the premises immediately.
- Post information about health precautions for patrons, employees and staff (such as maintaining a distance while lining up for checkout). Automate doors, reduce the number of people using elevators, provide hand sanitizer to the extent possible.
- Advise employees with any symptoms of illness to be tested and to stay home until they receive test results. Create policies that make it possible for employees to isolate and quarantine.
If you feel your employer is not following these guidelines and putting your health and safety at risk, you can file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). This complaint is confidential and can be filed via phone, online, or email. You can also file a whistleblower complaint if you feel your employer retaliated against you for exercising your rights as an employee. If you are injured or develop illness on the job, you may be eligible for workers compensation.
Here at the Rocky McElhaney Law Firm, my team and I remain committed to helping Nashville recover while protecting the rights and safety of our workers. We provide the help and representation you need during these tough times. We serve clients in Nashville, Hendersonville, or Knoxville. Call us today at 615-425-2500 or fill out our contact form. We fight for you.