What steps can an employer take to reduce the risk of exposure of the Zika virus in the workplace?

Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, XpertHR Legal Editor

In order to reduce the risk of exposure of the Zika virus in the workplace, an employer should educate its employees about the risks of exposure to the virus and the ways to protect themselves. An employer should also take the following steps:

  • Eliminate areas on its grounds where water can pool, as standing water often serves as mosquito breeding grounds, e.g., remove or regularly drain decorative bins, flower pot saucers and put lids on outside garbage and recycling cans;
  • Hire a pest control company to handle severe mosquito problems;
  • Supply insect repellent containing an EPA-registered active ingredient that is effective against mosquitoes and encourage employees to use it;
  • Provide protective equipment to employees, such as hats with mosquito netting that covers the face and neck as well as clothing that covers the hands, arms, legs and other exposed skin;
  • Determine whether outdoor tasks can be eliminated or moved indoors;
  • Assess whether mosquitos can enter the facilities, such as by checking for holes in window screens and doors; and
  • Avoid business travel to Zika-affected areas, if possible. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tracks the spread of the Zika virus in the US and around the world. If an employee has business to attend to in a location for which the CDC has issued a travel advisory, the employer should determine whether:
    • The trip can be postponed;
    • The location can be changed; or
    • The business can be conducted remotely.