Protective Equipment, Sanitized Workplace is Every Worker’s Right

Working people are being infected at work and dying from COVID-19 in every sector. Each time we turn on the news, we hear an account of a working person contracting COVID-19 on the job, getting sick, and tragically, sometimes dying. The death count has been made needlessly higher by the failure to protect essential workers on the front lines.

We still don’t have across the board directives for our essential workers to wear appropriate personal protection or have cleaned and sanitized work space while on the job during the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, many essential workers are not wearing face coverings or gloves while working with coworkers or the public, and too many workers report to a workplace that has not been sanitized.

As workers we have the right to be safe on the job. As customers, we should have the expectation that our fellow workers in essential jobs who we come in contact with have what they need to keep themselves and those around them safe.

The health and safety of our essential workforce is a fundamental responsibility of both government and employers.

After weeks of telling us only sick people and those caring for them should wear masks, government health officials are changing course and rightly advising all Americans to wear face coverings while out in public. Yet we still don’t have directives for our essential workers on the front lines of this viral battle to wear appropriate protective equipment on the job.

As we work to stop this pandemic, new information has come to bear that as many as 25% of infected people are asymptomatic and could unwittingly transmit the virus to others in the workplace. We know that this coronavirus is highly contagious, can be aerosoled, can live in the air, can live for long periods of time (days, or even longer) on surfaces, equipment, and in warehouses and manufacturing facilities. The risk of catching the virus through any of these means is higher than initially reported by top federal government officials. Yet, the CDC just last week issued dangerous new guidelines instructing employers to keep virus exposed workers who have not yet presented symptoms on the job.

Essential workers in every sector need proper protective equipment, appropriate social distancing, and cleaned and sanitized workplaces that they can rely upon to stay safe.