CDC Guidance for Critical Workers Potentially Exposed to COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC) recently published new guidance tailored to critical workers, as defined in Guidance on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The CDC guidance recommends practices for critical infrastructure employers and employees with potential exposure to COVID-19, but who do not themselves have COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC defines potential exposure: being a household contact or having close contact within 6 feet of an individual with confirmed or suspected COVID-19; the timeframe for having contact with an individual includes the period of time of 48 hours before the individual became symptomatic.
The CDC guidance does not apply to all workers in the propane industry. Companies should carefully review the guidance to understand when the recommended practices are permissible so as to avoid violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, which generally prohibits medical examines like taking employees’ temperatures.
The intent of the guidance is to permit critical infrastructure workers to continue essential functions following potential exposure to COVID-19 with additional precautions to protect workers and the community.

Your Propane Business and COVID-19

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, the PPGA would like to share a few important thoughts. Our goal is not to add to the hysteria or suggest a reason to panic, but to offer reasonable guidance for your business operations during this challenging time. These are only suggestions and you can decide if or how they may benefit your company.

Consumer Interaction

The propane industry by nature tends to have minimal interactions with customers as drivers and techs perform their functions in a controlled environment. Still, you may want to discuss with field personnel their interaction with customers. Understandably, people may be more wary of contact with others.

Similarly, you may want to consider notifying your customers that your drivers are being asked to limit customer interaction. Let them know you appreciate their faith and trust in you, and that in return your employees are keeping an eye on customer safety from all angles.

Consider limiting employee exposure to customer homes in non-emergency situations. When in-home customer assistance is needed, remind your employees to limit customer exposure and practice sound hygiene to limit liability and exposures.

If you do not already have one, consider a payment drop box to limit exposure to those customers that pay bills in person. It’s true that customers and staff often enjoy good relationships and the opportunity to visit over the counter, but some may feel more comfortable with a hands-off option.

Encourage more customers to pay bills via credit card or online payments to limit exposure and lines in your office. It might be time to review your credit card processing supplier and shop for lower fees as this option is increasing in demand while interest rates drop.

Impact on Low-Income Customers

COVID-19 will impact the lives of everyone to some degree. Low-income customers, however, will have fewer options if employment and benefits are interrupted.

Wage-earners whose place of employment is closed or families that lose daycare and have to miss work to stay home will feel immediate financial strain. The processing of low income assistance payments may be impacted if/when state work stoppages or employee absenteeism occurs. Homebound residents may also go through product a little faster than expected, so keeping an eye on tank levels even as the winter fades may be a good idea. Anticipate these customer needs and work with them to have a plan. We’re all in this together.

Employee Situations

Beyond your company’s previous experience with flu or other seasonal illness outbreaks, COVID-19 may present a new challenge for your workforce. How will you handle employee absenteeism should it strike several members of your workforce for extended periods? Treatment for diagnosed or suspected outbreaks could idle an employee for two weeks or more. If schools or daycares close or remain closed as a result of COVID-19, how will your employees and their families juggle the demands of in-home care with the needs of supplying propane to your customers?

There may be no “right” answers to these questions but it’s important to ask them before the moment comes. Please consider how your company and its employees will respond to the potential workforce impacts of a COVID-19 outbreak.