Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Zika Virus: What Employers Need to Know

This past Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued new guidance and information in an effort to prevent workers from exposure to Zika virus.  The Zika virus is most commonly spread by infected mosquitoes; however, the virus can also be spread through sexual contact.  Common symptoms of the virus include red eye, rash, fever and joint pain.  Pregnant women can also pass the virus to their fetus, sometimes resulting in birth defects.  There is no vaccine to prevent this virus, nor is there any specific treatment once a person has become infected.  

The new guidance encourages employers to take the following preventative measures to protect employees who work outdoors:

  • Inform employees about their risks of exposure to the virus and ways to minimize exposure, such as wearing clothing that covers exposed skin; 
  • Provide employees with insect repellants that contain EPA-registered active ingredients;
  • Eliminate any outdoor sources of standing water where mosquitoes are likely to lay eggs; 
  • Consider equipping employees with hats that have mosquito netting, to protect the face and neck; and
  • If employee requests, consider relocating employees who are pregnant or may become pregnant or employees who have a sexual partner who is or may become pregnant

CDC and OSHA also state that employers should allow flexibility in required travel for employees who are concerned about exposure to the virus.   Employers should also consider delaying travel to areas with active Zika virus transmission. The guidelines also identify preventative measures that both mosquito control workers and healthcare and laboratory workers should take.  Employers who need assistance in revising its workplace to accommodate the new guidance should contact an experienced labor and employment attorney here.