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Do employers have a responsibility to protect employees from contagious illness?

Whether it is the flu or some other infectious illness that is spreading, you may worry about how safe you are in the workplace. You spend a lot of your time at work, so it makes sense that you would expect your employer to do everything possible to keep you safe.

When it comes to protecting you from infectious diseases, especially those that are airborne, personal protective equipment becomes quite important. Forbes explains that the law regulating what your employer must do to protect you is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

OSHA rules

The rules for handling illness and the spread of illness apply when the hazard is the potential for serious injury or death. This may or may not apply in the case of an infectious illness. The flu, for example, while deadly for some people, is not deadly or particularly harmful for the general public. Employers often do not offer PPE to help protect workers from this illness. Other illnesses often depend on the situation and may require employers to provide you with PPE and take other steps to protect you.

Airborne infectious diseases

The major concern you may have is about airborne infectious diseases. They are notoriously easy to spread. It is incredibly difficult to protect against them. The prevailing theory is that the best way to keep people healthy is to social distance, which means staying at least six feet apart, wearing face masks and washing hands regularly.

Many employers will attempt to put these guidelines in place, but in some cases, it is not feasible. If an employer cannot provide PPE or allow for social distancing, then there are hardship exceptions under the OSH Act. So, your employer may not have to do anything extra to protect you.

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