Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order mandating health and safety standards to protect all New Jersey’s workers at work during the pandemic starting Nov. 5.
“We took this step because, yet again, the federal government hasn’t,” said Murphy at his press briefing Oct. 29. “ The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has not yet put forward comprehensive COVID-19 health and safety standards. But as in so many cases, where Washington doesn’t lead, New Jersey will lead.”
The executive order will require both private and public sector employers to follow health and safety protocols that will serve to protect their in-person workforces. Employers, at minimum, will be required to have individuals at the worksite maintain at least six feet of distance from others to the maximum extent possible and require employees and visitors to wear masks when entering the worksite, subject to certain limited exceptions.
“Since the start of the pandemic, New Jersey workers across all sectors have risen to the challenges imposed by COVID-19,” said Murphy. “(The) executive order closes that gap to help ensure the health and safety of our workforce during this unprecedented time.”
The state established a new page at their COVID-19 information hub where workers, and employers can learn more about the order, their rights as well as their responsibilities, and what it means for them when the order takes effect
Other protocols require employers to:
- Provide approved sanitization materials to employees and visitors at no cost to those individuals;
- Ensure that employees practice hand hygiene and provide sufficient break time for that purpose;
- Routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with federal health guidelines;
- Conduct daily health checks, such as temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, and/or health questionnaires, prior to each shift, consistent with CDC guidance;
- Exclude sick employees from the workplace and follow requirements of applicable leave laws; and
- Promptly notify employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite.
Labor Department Role
The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) will support the state’s Department of Health’s efforts to address worker complaints from their employers, including establishing an intake form on the NJDOL website to receive complaints and developing an investigation and inspection protocol to review complaints.
Additionally, NJDOL is directed to provide compliance and safety training for employers and employees. The department will provide materials to inform workers of their rights and businesses of their obligations as well as coordinate with workforce training partners to create and provide training.
“With (this) action, New Jersey becomes the only state to leverage its public sector-only jurisdiction to protect workers in the private sector from COVID-19. We now have the essential tools and resources we need to ensure businesses are operating safely, and our economy is moving forward,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo.
“By protecting New Jerseyans in the workplace, we are lessening the health risks to families and communities. As more people return to work, the high standards we have set today will be critical in maintaining our public health.”