Americans are anxious to get back to work. Regardless of political affiliation and medical opinions, we all want to get back to restaurants, go to live performances, shop in stores, assemble parts at factories, and get children back in schools.
We are concerned with the safety of workers. We have been writing about essential workers who have an increased risk of exposure to Covid-19. They have not been staying at home. They are in squad cars, hospitals, restaurants, trucks and offices. It is hard for these workers due to the virus and the need to stay socially distanced and protected from other workers and the public. It is somewhat easier as there are less people out of their homes. Traffic volume is lower less people are ordering from restaurants, there are less people in offices. We are aware that some healthcare workers have been dealing with heavy volumes of potentially sick people. This can take place at smaller hospitals or larger systems such as Advocate, Aurora, Resurrection or Northshore.
What will happen when more people are working? Will the newly opened businesses abide by social distancing? Will they have personal protective equipment for their employees? Will they have thought through how people will work and how they will interact with the public and how they will get their jobs done in a reasonably safe manner? We hope so.
Business owners and managers need to think through new procedures. It may be as simple as painting lines on the floor to keep people appropriately spaced. It may require a bouncer at the door to regulate the number of people in the store. It may mean spending some money to install Plexiglass shields between workstations. We will see how FCA Chrysler and Ford and their various suppliers protect workers when they get back to building cars and trucks. Once we return to work the new normal will still be abnormal. People will not be working the way they worked last year.
Apart from the risk of contracting Covid-19 we are concerned that protecting workers from the virus can make workers more vulnerable to all the mechanisms of injury we have seen over the years. Will a face mask limit a worker’s ability to see where the drill bit is going or the part is being placed? Will a different design be needed for some workers’ personal protective devices? If gloves are necessary to keep a workplace sanitary can the workers still do all the fine manipulation and use precision tools? Can a construction worker at Paschen or Walsh do his or her job with a mask or gloves? These issues will impact workers across the State of Illinois, from Rockford to Quincy and from Waukegan to Mt. Vernon.
We are thinking about teachers working safely when the children can return to schools. For now, teachers are reinventing their jobs by using platforms such as Zoom. This can only go so far with a first grader. That kid will need socialization with other kids and will need to be engaged. How will teachers keep safe and keep their students safe? We urge school districts to plan now for ways they can safely go back to school this fall.
Businesses will need to plan for a public that may not be thrilled that they have to wear a mask or use gloves or keep distance from the employees. Some members of the public have become violently upset about the need to wear a mask in a store. We hope employers plan for customers who become upset with wearing a mask or with the increased waiting time as everything takes a little more time working in a world with Covid-19. Will security be needed? Will bullet proof protection be needed? Will extra training be needed?
Employers, don’t just open your doors. Please think about the safety of your workers and your customers. Please create plans for how you will do business as we slowly try to get back to whatever normal was and will be.
No matter how well the employer has planned, things still happen. People still get injured and employees may still contract Covid-19. We are here to discuss your situation with you and to advise you. If you get hurt or if you get sick, call us so we can help you through this. Our office is open and some attorneys are working from home and some are working from the office, but we are all working, and we are working for you.
Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers at Katz Friedman are currently investigating Covid-19 cases on behalf of sick [doctors and nurses]. When making decisions regarding a work injury from Covid, it is wise to consult an attorney to protect your interests because it is clear that the employers already have their lawyers working on this issue to defeat your claim. If you or someone you know works in the health care field and suffers from COVID-19, the attorneys and staff of Katz Friedman are here to help with obtaining proper compensation.