As lockdown periods end and Americans return to work, many people remain anxious about COVID-19. Without federal support, state legislatures must rely on individual businesses to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and enforce safety guidelines.

Thankfully, worker’s rights organizations are stepping up to help. The National Council for Operational Safety and Health has recently published its recommendations for states which seek to provide a “safe and just” return to work.

What is the National COSH?

The National COSH is a coalition of worker’s rights groups that began in 1972 as a private organization dedicated to worker safety. Their members focus their efforts on activism, education and training.

The organization recently released guidelines for state legislators to follow for reopening the economy. These guidelines specifically address the coronavirus and how to prevents its spread.

5 steps for a “safe and just” return to work

According to the National COSH, states should mandate the following to protect workers, citizens and businesses from current and future pandemics:

  • Exhaustive health and safety precautions: The National COSH recommends that legislators use science-based data to build comprehensive safety guidelines designed with help from workers, unions and employers. These guidelines should focus on training, enforcement and robust planning that focuses on worker safety first and foremost. Employers who fail to follow instructions should face legal action.
  • Worker inclusion in all policy-making: Legislators must involve unions and workers in every step of the planning process. Lawmakers must prevent public employees from changing collective bargaining agreements.
  • Guaranteed job and wage protections: National COSH suggests that all workers have the right to paid, protected sick leave during a public health crisis, including quarantine pay. The group also advocates for health care coverage for all workers, including mental health services.
  • Detailed screening, testing and tracing systems: The worker’s rights activists also recommend states set up professional screening programs that help track the virus’ spread through community outreach.
  • Provide a roadmap to end health disparity: National COSH wants states to mandate a “living, saving wage” for all workers to maintain a non-precarious living standard. States should also invest in universal childcare and financial support programs for small businesses. States should also examine worker classifications and address the inequities in their rights and protections.

Protecting the rights of workers

Workers denied compensation for work-based injury or illness can reach out to a local attorney familiar with defending worker’s rights. An attorney can assess one’s case, work with union representatives and help draft settlements.