Guidelines for Phase 1 and 2 Businesses and Essential Businesses in New York State
As New York State begins its regional phased approach to reopen, it is vital that New York employers stay up-to-date with the most recent guidance and directives in order to protect their workplaces from COVID-19. New York State has recently issued several materials for employers in the State, including interim guidelines that apply to both non-essential businesses in regions that are permitted to reopen in Phase 1 or 2 of the State’s reopening plan, and essential businesses throughout the State that were previously permitted to remain open.
The State’s reopening plan has four phases, which are broken down into industries, with the industries that are more essential and pose a lower risk opening first. Phase 1 includes Construction; Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting; Retail (curbside or in-store pickup or drop off); Manufacturing; and Wholesale Trade. Phase 2 includes Professional Services; Retail; Administrative Support; and Real Estate, Rental, and Leasing. Phase 3 includes Restaurants and Food Services. Phase 4 includes Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation; and Education.
While the guidelines are primarily industry-specific, certain requirements apply across all industries. For example, as part of the guidelines, businesses are required to screen their employees for COVID-19. This includes implementing a health screening assessment (such as a questionnaire or temperature check) before employees begin work each day, and depending on the industry, for certain employees, contractors, and/or visitors, asking whether in the past 14 days they had COVID-19 symptoms, a positive COVID-19 test, and/or close contact with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case. Responses to the assessment must be reviewed daily, and the review must be documented. In addition, on-site screeners should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), meaning, at the very least, a face covering, and should be trained by individuals familiar with the protocols of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Importantly, these screening requirements are but one of the many requirements now applicable to businesses under the new guidelines. Additional information regarding these and other requirements is available here: https://forward.ny.gov/ny-forward.
Staffing firms need to take additional steps beyond what they had done in the past in order to ensure that their employees are being sent into a safe work environment that complies with applicable federal, state, and local guidelines. One option is to request that the client send its protocols to the staffing firm for review and to confirm that the protocols provide adequate safety precautions, comply with the applicable guidelines, and do not treat temporary employees differently than the client’s internal employees. Another and perhaps simpler option (which we think is the minimum a staffing firm should do) is to request written confirmation from the client that it is following the applicable guidelines.
As the situation is continuously evolving, the guidelines (including the requirements) are subject to change. However, it is likely that daily health screening will be listed as a requirement for Phase 3 and 4 businesses as well.
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