Thirty-nine states need to do more to protect their residents from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which is a respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the National Safety Council (NSC). The group’s “State of the Response” report assessed states on their efforts in five key areas based on the NSC’s SAFER: Safe Actions for Employee Returns recommendations.
The group rated 12 states as “on track” for the 5 criteria: employer guidelines, testing, contact tracing, mental health and substance abuse, and roadway safety.
California, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington led the nation with the highest overall ratings.
In its rankings for employer guidelines, the NSC concluded that California, Kentucky, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah had the most comprehensive guidelines. Seven “off track” states—Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Missouri—had the least comprehensive employer guidelines.
“Many states have shown ingenuity and grit when it comes to protecting citizens, while others fell short,” NSC president and CEO Lorraine M. Martin said in a statement.
“This report is intended not as a condemnation,” Martin said, “but as a challenge to states to learn from each other and do better—and a reminder to employers that our workers are the lifeblood of our country, and their safety is paramount.”
The report points out that some of the largest workplace outbreaks of COVID-19 have been at food processing facilities, long-term care (LTC) facilities, and manufacturing plants. While federal officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have provided most of the available guidance for employers on safely operating during the pandemic, states have borne most of the responsibility of addressing effects of the pandemic within their borders, the group said.
States need to clearly define best practices for employers to keep their employees safe, according to the NSC. Employers need to implement a handful of practices like cleaning, distancing, testing, contact tracing, and face coverings to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 infection, the NSC advises in its SAFER framework. The nine states with the most comprehensive guidelines included four out of the five mitigation efforts outlined in the SAFER framework.
The NSC recognized Utah for having a comprehensive, easy-to-read guide that goes into significant detail on several subcategories. Utah was the only one of the nine states to provide comprehensive guidance on testing, according to the NSC. The state also provided all its guidance documents on one easy-to-locate webpage.
The group suggested other states look to guidelines from the nine “on track” states when updating their own employer COVID-19 guidelines.
The NSC’s mission is to eliminate preventable deaths in the home and workplace, as well as on roadways. Its Work to Zero initiative aims to leverage technology to eliminate workplace deaths, and its Road to Zero Coalition intends to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2050. Its focus on preventable deaths now also includes preventing fatal opioid overdoses.