Cleaning and environmental firms are in demand, as businesses strive to deter the spread of COVID-19 and keep their customers, employees and premises safe. For businesses seeking to capitalize on these new opportunities, it is imperative to fully consider the legal risks.
For instance, if you advertise that your company can “disinfect” a space, but fail to remove the virus and someone gets sick, you could face a lawsuit. Similarly, if one of your staff members contracts COVID-19, they could allege that they were exposed to the virus at work.
Therefore, before pivoting your cleaning and environmental firm to COVID-19 disinfection, it is imperative to conduct due diligence. Below are several important considerations:
- Choose the right disinfectants: According to early studies, COVID-19 can survive on certain surfaces for days. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a list of effective disinfectants for COVID-19. It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products for concentration, application method, and contact time.
- Consult local guidance: Firms should consult with local and state health departments to ensure appropriate local protocols and guidelines, such as updated or additional guidance for cleaning and disinfection, are followed.
- Protect employees with appropriate protective gear: The risk of exposure to COVID-19 and chemicals being used should inform the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) being used, which may include, but is not limited to, gloves, masks, face shields, and gowns/coveralls. In addition to wearing the proper PPE, it is equally important that workers know how to properly don (put on), use, and doff (take off) PPE, as well as how to properly dispose of PPE.
- Ensure employees are properly trained: Employees must be fully trained on how to properly use PPE and how to apply chemicals safely and effectively. Staff should also be instructed to immediately notify their supervisor and the local health department if they develop symptoms of COVID-19.
- Verify OSHA compliance: Businesses must ensure workers are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with OSHA’s Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200). Businesses must also comply with OSHA’s standards on Bloodborne Pathogens (29 CFR 1910.1030), including proper disposal of regulated waste, and PPE (29 CFR 1910.132).
- Verify your insurance coverage: Your existing insurance may not cover claims associated with damage caused by disinfecting chemicals, exposure of workers to COVID-19, and the failure to fully remove the virus from a space. It is important to review your current insurance, as well as determine what additional coverage may be available.
- Review your contracts: Businesses should similarly review their service contracts with regard to any disclaimers, warranties and other provisions that may be related to COVID-19 cleaning. In many cases, these contracts should be reviewed with an attorney to determine if changes are warranted to protect you from liability.
If you have any questions about how your firm can mitigate its liability during the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys.
If you have questions, please contact us
If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, John Scagnelli, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.