Farm safety: COVID-19 health screening requirements for essential employees
New health screening requirements for essential employees will help keep our farms safe and ensure that they can keep running during this pandemic.
As of April 24, 2020, there were over 36,500 confirmed cases and over 3,000 deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan, with cases reported in all but four counties across the state. In an attempt to slow the spread of virus, federal, state, and local guidance has been developed and Stay Home Stay Safe orders instituted. As the landscape changes almost daily, it can be challenging to keep abreast of federal, state, and local requirements. Requirements and guidance surrounding the screening and testing of essential employees, maintaining social distances, and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) remain key strategies to minimize disease spread in the workplace.
It is important to note that some counties require businesses remaining open that are deemed essential to post the county-specific Emergency Order at each entrance visible to employees and customers/visitors.
The goal of screening essential employees prior to entering the workplace is to try to mitigate spread between workers and also to the public visiting businesses deemed essential. Each county across the state has its own requirements specific to the screening of employees, with some counties mandating that screening take place as part of county-level Emergency Orders.
In these counties, owners of businesses deemed essential are required to develop and implement a daily employee health screening program that includes the evaluation of symptoms consistent with COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by novel coronavirus. These symptoms include, but are not limited to: fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, and/or diarrhea. It is suggested that employers screen employees for fever using a touchless thermometer. If not available, verbal confirmation of lack of fever by the employee is acceptable, but not preferred. If the employee reports experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms or has a fever exceeding 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, the employee must not be allowed in the workplace and should contact a personal healthcare provider for further guidance.
In addition to an evaluation of symptoms related to COVID-19 infections, employers are required to screen for specific risk factors for contracting the disease, including whether or not the employee has come into close contact (within the last 14 days) with someone who is confirmed positive for COVID-19, or if they have traveled internationally or outside of Michigan (both within the last 14 days). If the response to either of these questions is ‘yes’, then the employee must not be allowed to enter the workplace.
Exemptions for those coming into contact with individuals who are sick exist for essential employees such as first responders, healthcare workers, etc. Similarly, travel-related exemptions exist for essential employees involved in activity related to supply chain, critical infrastructure/movement, etc.
These interactive screening questionnaires (offered in English and Spanish) may be useful for employers to screen employees prior to leaving for work as they can email or send a screen shot of their responses to a designated individual at the workplace, or they can complete the form once they have arrived on-site. If screening happens at the workplace, it should occur in a designated location, optimally prior to entering or just inside the building in an area that is cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Return to Work
If the employee is excluded from work because they have any of the symptoms mentioned above, they should not return to work for a minimum of 72 hours (three  days) with no fever - without the use of fever reducing medication and other symptoms have improved, and at least seven (7) days since symptoms began. Employees must not return to work for at least 14 days if they develop COVID-19, after being in close contact with an individual confirmed positive for COVID-19, and 14 days following travel.
For more information on minimizing spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, and to find out about state and local guidelines and requirements:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Resources for Businesses and Employers
- State of Michigan – Frequently Asked COVID-19 Questions
- State of Michigan – Frequently Asked COVID-19 Questions (has the ability to search by key topics such as Employers, Employees and Food & Agriculture
- Contact information for County Health Departments (includes websites and contact numbers): County website resources include county emergency orders (posting), informational posters, requirements for businesses deemed essential, etc.