Workers make masks at the Loewe factory.

SAFETY FIRST: As government officials and executives continue to debate when, how and under what conditions businesses should reopen, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has released a report highlighting the need for caution.

The organization’s view is that the U.S. is far from being ready to open for business without putting workers and entire communities at “grave risk of illness and death.” The National COSH’s stance is that only the most essential businesses should be open as long as safety measures are not only in place, but also monitored and enforced.

An assortment of authorities — academics, certified industrial hygienists, attorneys, physicians and leaders of nonprofits and NGOs — were recruited to contribute to the new report. “A Safe and Just Return to Work” offers safety guidelines, the need for workers’ input and fair compensation for sick, injured and at-risk workers.

Keeping workers healthy is increasingly a topic of conversation and concern as more states ease stay at home restrictions and business owners and companies anticipate reopening their stores, operations and offices. Companies such as Walmart, Target, Amazon, FedEx and others considered essential and already opened, and their respective employees, have also been diving into this matter. A one-day walkout strike over health and safety concerns by some essential workers on May 1 generated more media coverage about the issue.

Earlier this week, Amazon whistleblower Chris Smalls said he is creating the Congress of Essential Workers, a rank-and-file committee to help essential workers in the event of another pandemic.

National COSH’s co-executive director Jessica Martinez is calling for workers “to be at the table,” actively involved in decisions about workplace safety in their respective workplaces, and when creating local, state and federal guidelines.

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