On June 26, 2020, Governor Steve Sisolak gave the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“NV OSHA”) the authority to enforce COVID-19 mitigation directives “to keep our businesses open and our economy moving.” On July 1, 2020, the Division of Industrial Relations (“DIR”) released a statement that it will make unannounced visits to businesses to observe compliance with face coverings, social distancing, sanitation, and other requirements in the Governor Sisolak’s orders.
- Employer Responsibilities
Nevada’s “COVID-19 Re-Opening Response Plan” outlines the protective measures and risk reduction activities in the governor’s orders. The Plan requires employers to:
- ensure Social Distancing of six (6) feet per person for non-household members at all times;
- limit all social gatherings to no more than fifty (50) people where Social Distancing is reasonable;
- limit social gatherings to no more than ten (10) people where Social Distancing is not feasible;
- provide employees with face coverings or allow them to use their own;
- ensure the use of face coverings by employees, visitors, and customers in all areas controlled by the business;
- limit access to a business’s common areas;
- promote frequent hand washing;
- maintain regular and frequent housekeeping practices;
- provide sanitation and cleaning supplies; and,
- conduct daily surveys of changes to staff health conditions.
A Job Hazard Analysis (“JHA”) may be completed for each task or procedure where social distancing is infeasible. A JHA developed for this purpose must identify the task being addressed, the COVID-19 hazard being addressed, and the controls used to address the hazard. Additionally, employers are encouraged to monitor employees during breaks to ensure proper social distancing protocols.
Businesses that do not comply with these directives face a variety of disciplinary actions.
If the DIR finds that a business is in noncompliance with the governor’s directives, the DIR will issue notices or citations. The DIR will issue notices to businesses that fail to comply with the Governor’s COVID-19 orders and conduct follow-up visits to those businesses. If an inspector finds continuing noncompliance, the inspector will issue a citation, open an investigation, and schedule a conference. Under the authority provided in NRS 618.545(1), the DIR Administrator may close a business until the business complies or the State of Emergency ends.
The DIR will also take complaints from the public. Two “call-in lines” are available to the public to report noncompliance and they will be “promoted so Nevadans are easily able to help ensure enforcement in their communities.” Any business that receives a complaint will be issued a letter and the business is allowed to respond to NV OSHA. If the letter is deemed insufficient, NV OSHA may open an investigation. If a business receives numerous complaints, it can choose to open an investigation and issue citations. The NV OSHA may also send certain complaints to business licensing agencies instead of going through an inquiry process.
Additionally, the NV OSHA will collect data on business compliance and use the data to enforce actions against industry sectors that have the greatest incidences of noncompliance. Those business sectors with the highest compliance will receive the most attention from the DIR.
- The Science of Face Coverings
Nevada’s Medical Advisory Team (“MAT”) has recently issued information about the efficacy of face coverings. The MAT acknowledged that COVID-19 is “highly contagious” and it advised that an individual can be contagious with COVID-19 before the onset of symptoms. Proper use of facial coverings is, therefore, a “critical component in decreasing the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19.” Face coverings protect both the wearer and those around the wearer from COVID-19 contagion.
The main role of a face covering is to reduce the release of infectious particles into the air when a person speaks, coughs, or sneezes. While no one single intervention offers complete protection, when combined with proper handwashing, social distancing, and staying home when sick, face coverings can significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities. A study of the spread of COVID-19 showed that if only fifty percent (50%) of a population wears a face covering, it will not be sufficient to prevent continued spread. However, when eighty percent (80%) of a population donned a face covering, infection rates dropped substantially.
- Nevada’s Public Health Initiatives
The State of Nevada has developed an initiative to respond to the spread of COVID-19 that includes identifying those who may have come into contact with the virus. The state intends to test two percent (2%) of Nevadans each month, and every Nevadan who tests positive will be contacted by a “contact tracer” within 24 hours to identify others who may have been exposed to the virus. The contact tracer will notify anyone at risk COVID-19 infection and instruct the individual to quarantine and self-isolate. To accomplish the necessary tracing, the state of Nevada will employ a new case investigation workforce that will be overseen by the Southern Nevada Health District and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.