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Getting Back to Work – Operating in Vermont During the COVID-19 Era

As we slowly re-open the economy, we need to readjust how we do businesses to promote health and safety.

We have provided a step-by-step guide to help you safely reopen your business in a COVID-19 world.  Following these steps is important to ensure you, your employees, and your customers remain and feel safe.  These steps are also vital to keep cases of COVID-19 to a minimum so the economy does not need to shut down again.

Failure to do these things may result in your employees self-terminating as allowed under Act 91, increased workers’ compensation claims, or potential liability if customers believe they contract COVID-19 due to your businesses’ operation.

Before Employees Come Back

1. Complete Staff-Wide Training

Complete and document mandatory health and safety training as provided by the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA), or another training program that meets or exceeds VOSHA-provided standards by May 4, 2020.  This is mandated for all businesses, non-profits and government entities.  Be sure to have each employee take the VOSHA training, sign the certificate, and have it somewhere accessible on a job site.

2. Create a business plan

Create a plan outlining how your business is following the above-stated health and safety requirements in consultation with the Phased Restart Work Safe Guidance created by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), mandatory health and safety requirements found in the newly required VOSHA training, best practices from the Vermont Department of Health, and sector-specific guidance. This plan should be on file and easily available to be viewed if asked for by an employee or VOSHA.

Think of your business plan as an ever-adapting document that will change as new sources of liability or vulnerability arise, guidance is released and best practices are created. Clearly note what changes were made to the plan and when they were made.

3. Designate a health and safety officer

Designate an employee as a health and safety officer. This individual will be responsible for monitoring compliance with your plan, educating employees on risks, and stopping or documenting intentional or unintentional digressions from the plan by employees or customers that may lead to COVID-19 spreading in the workplace.

4. Get personal protective equipment

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be mandated for all employees. Get guidance on use and help sourcing PPE here.

Once Employees Return to Work

1. follow health and safety requirements

Follow all mandatory health and safety requirements for all business operations as established by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Check back with ACCD and VOSHA for updates or with your chamber of commerce.

2. communicate with your staff

Some employees may not feel entirely comfortable returning to work. Be sure to be open to their concerns and needs and document what they are and how you respond to them. Employers have a responsibility to create a workplace that does not expose employees to “unreasonable risk” and if they cannot, employees will be eligible for unemployment insurance under Act 91. Follow VOSHA guidelines and documenting procedures to avoid risk to continue to operate normally. Check out these Employer Best Practices courtesy of DRM.  If an employee refuses to return to work, submit a work refusal report.

3. know what to do if an employee gets sick

If an employee becomes sick the employee may be eligible for FFCRA leave, Workers’ Compensation, or unemployment. More information can be found in this blog by DRM on Employment Matters.

The most recent guidance regarding Work Safe practices can always be found on the sector guidance and FAQs for business pages of the ACCD website. 

The LCRCC resource guide can be found here.  

Submit any questions or concerns about how to open your business to our Rapid Response form and get an answer within 1-3 business days.

This document was last updated on May 1st, at 9:00 a.m. This document does not constitute legal or financial advice, rather a compilation of resources and best practices.