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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) provided a three-month extension to several emergency waivers enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Qualifying truck and bus drivers now have through August 31, 2021, to operating under the terms of the new waivers. However, the FMCSA could terminate or modify the waivers before then.

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Patterns of addiction usually increase during natural disasters and pandemics. This past year, many people were quarantined and struggling with economic uncertainties, while also juggling school and work schedules and everything in between. Those who were already struggling with pre-existing mental illnesses or substance abuse issues may have turned to illicit substance use as a way to cope with the extra distress of the past year, and COVID-19 has exacerbated the opioid crisis – some studies showing that 2020 will be the worst year for opioid overdoses.

This year’s National Prevention Week is May 9-15, and this public education platform focuses on promoting prevention year-round through providing ideas, capacity building, tools, and resources to help individuals and communities make substance use prevention happen every day. Alcohol and drug use in the workplace causes many expensive problems, including lost productivity, injuries and an increase in health insurance claims – loss to companies is estimated to be $100 billion a year, according to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI).

According to NCADI statistics, alcohol and drug users are far less productive, use 3X as many sick days, are more likely to injure themselves or someone else, and are 5x more likely to file a worker’s compensation claim. It’s important for the safety of your employees, as well as the health of your company, to establish a drug-free workplace program. Most successful drug-free workplace programs have five key components:

1. A written policy
2. Employee education
3. Supervisor training
4. An employee assistance program (EAP)
5. Drug testing

For an explanation of these, as well as a Drug-Free Workplace Toolkit provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), check out their website. Saying this past year has been a tough year is an understatement. Taking firm steps to help keep your employees safe and healthy should be a priority.

The U.S. agency that enforces workplace safety laws has said it will prioritize work site inspections of healthcare facilities over other “essential” businesses that remain open during the coronavirus outbreak.

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Updates concerning the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, are happening at a pretty rapid pace, which can lead to panic and misinformation. Workplace exposure is a concern, and many businesses are sending out information to their employees to limit the spread of germs and prevent infection. The basics are as follows:

• Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away after use (do not cough or sneeze in your hands) – wash your hands
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick
• Stay home when you are sick
• Clean an disinfect doorknobs, handrails, switches, handles, computers, telephones, bathrooms – any common surfaces touched by many people
• Avoid shaking hands with people – fist bumps or elbow bumps are a good option!

Here are a few other tips for protecting the workplace and your employees:

• Remind and reinforce employees to wash their hands by placing signs around the building and especially in public areas, such as bathrooms and food preparation spaces
• Routinely clean and disinfect all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace and provide employees with disposable wipes, so commonly used surfaces can be wiped down before each use
• If your business can operate, allow employees the flexibility to work from home
• Make sure your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance – and that your employees are well aware of these policies
• Advise employees to check for travelers’ health notices in regard to their travel destinations – and postpone or cancel any business-related travel to those regions most impacted by COVID-19. For the most current list, visit the CDC website –
• Provide open dialogue opportunities for your employees to discuss their concerns

During these uncertain times, you have most likely considered your business’s air quality. Even though we cannot test directly for Coronavirus in the air or on surfaces since the focus right now is human testing, we can test for other parameters that if they come back favorably, it would indicate that the environment is generally clean and less apt to be contaminated with viruses or other pathogens. This can provide a level of comfort to your employees, when most other current news is unsettling. Testing the air quality with respect to bacteria, mold, gases and other particles shows your employees you are concerned about providing a clean working environment. Workplace Safety & Health Co., Inc. has conducted hundreds of indoor air quality surveys and is efficient at assessing all types of occupational environments.

Your employees have a right to a safe working environment. As an employer, it is your responsibility to take steps to reduce transmission opportunities among staff and protect those who are at a higher risk for adverse health complications (older employees and those who are immune compromised). At the time of this writing, there is still much to be learned about COVID-19 and its future impact, but you can take steps now to protect your most valuable assets – your employees.

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