While the following guidance from the CDC is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended that fuel dealers implement them for the safety of their employees and customers. NEFI strongly recommends you consult with your company physician and legal counsel regarding these matters.
In coordination with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued interim guidance for getting essential workers that have been exposed to the coronavirus back to work faster. The guidance could help heating fuel dealers and home comfort providers maintain employment for the duration of the crisis.
Previously the CDC advised that any employee -- including critical workers -- exposed to the new coronavirus should stay at home for 14 days to prevent them from infecting customers or others at the company. The new interim guidance advises that critical workers be permitted to return to work if they remain asymptomatic (i.e., showing no symptoms) and additional precautions are implemented.
A "potential exposure" is defined as having close contact with a person confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19. This includes being in a household or other confined space with a presumably infectious person; or coming within six feet of such an individual. The CDC says the timeframe for potential exposure is 48 hours (or two days) before the period in which the afflicted individual became symptomatic. It also includes the period during which the employee is experiencing symptoms.
The new guidance applies to heating fuel delivery drivers, service technicians, and other critical workers as identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (see full list here). Employers should require employees to notify management immediately of any potential exposure. The CDC then advises that the following protocols be taken for the affected employee:
- Pre-Screen: Employers should measure the potentially exposed employee's temperature and assess symptoms prior to them starting work. Ideally, temperature checks should happen before the individual enters the office or jobsite.
- Regular Monitoring: The employee should self-monitor for temperature and other symptoms under the supervision of the occupational health program. Generally, a "fever" is defined as a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Click here for the CDC's list of COVID-19 symptoms.
- Wear a Mask: The employee should be required to wear a facemask, whenever in the workplace or jobsite, for 14 days after last exposure. Employers can issue facemasks or approve alternative or homemade face coverings in the event of shortages (sewing patterns for facemasks are available at www.nefi.com/coronavirus under Other Important Resources).
- Social Distancing: The employee should always stay 6 feet from customers and coworkers and practice social distancing while performing his or her duties.
- Disinfect & Clean Workspaces: Routinely clean and disinfect all areas such as offices, bathrooms, breakrooms, common areas, shared electronic equipment, and company vehicle.
Send the employee home immediately if symptoms develop. Advise the employee to follow CDC guidelines for managing symptoms at home. His or her workspace and company vehicle should be immediately cleaned and disinfected. Identify individuals who were potentially exposed to the sick employee while he or she experienced symptoms or 2 days prior. Potentially exposed employees should be subject to the protocol described above. Customers or contractors that had potential exposure should be notified that they may have had contact with an employee who has developed COVID-19-related symptoms.
NEFI recommends that fuel dealers and other home comfort providers apply the new CDC guidance to all employees. In the event of a potential exposure, these companies might allow non-public-facing employees to work from home for two weeks.
New CDC Interim Guidance for Critical Workers
New CDC Flyer for Critical Workers & Employers
CDC Interim Guidance for Businesses to Plan and Respond to COVID-19 (Updated March 21, 2020)
CDC List of Coronavirus Symptoms