Am I Required to Provide PPE to My Employees?

As we enter the fall and winter, the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing problems. More than three million cases occurred in November in the United States, adding to the 12 million cases overall. Hospitalizations are at a high point, and the situation is again challenging for an economy already rocked by the pandemic.  

Employers are being urged to require masks and follow CDC guidelines. What do the latest numbers signify for employers? Are employers required to provide their employees with personal protective equipment? What ethical and legal responsibilities do employers have in Colorado and around the nation?  

What Are COVID-19 Work Requirements in Colorado?  

Colorado’s Public Health order 20 26 went into effect in March. It required workers in businesses and government agencies to wear PPEs. The ruling stated, “Employers who operate Critical Businesses or manage Critical Government Functions should make every effort to provide their workforce with medical or non-medical face coverings for their employees.” The ruling also required gloves as well as complying with other safety measures such as social distancing, disinfecting common spaces, and cutting gatherings to no more than 10-people.  

However, there are also federal rules from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) that were put into place in 2008 that required an employer to pay for PPE. Back then, the PPE was related to hazardous workplace gear such as protective hearing equipment, foot and eyewear, respirators, and hard hats. Today, it’s safe to assume masks and gloves can be added to this list. Generally, if a business is required to follow OSHA standards, it must also provide PPE.  

For Colorado employers wondering where their legal risks lie, Governor Polis’ Executive Order D 2020 044 also requires companies to accommodate workers with childcare responsibilities to permit flexible scheduling or remote work arrangements. This is in addition to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that mandates certain employees to provide paid sick leave for employees needing medical leave related to COVID-19. These laws apply to public employees and private employers with less than 500 employees. Small businesses with less than 50-workers may be exempt.   

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment says workplaces should create a safer environment by creating engineering controls to reduce the spread of the virus. In addition to providing PPE, employers must require employees and customers to wear them. They recommend companies appoint a workplace coordinator to be responsible for COVID-19 issues.  

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ADD STAFF hopes your teams stay safe. Please do everything you can to lessen your risk. We are standing by if you need staffing assistance through the holidays and beyond.