As schools prepare to reopen, pupil transporters will be required to make significant adjustments to their buses and operations, establishing increased safety procedures for employees and students to accommodate in-person education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Wednesday, School Bus Fleet hosted a webinar, “Guidance on Compliance: Regulations and Mitigating Risk as Schools Reopen.” The speaker, Matthew Daus, a partner at the Transportation Practice Group at Windels Marx Lane and Mittendorf, as transportation technology chair at the City University of New York’s Transportation Research Center, and president of the nonprofit educational and advocacy group International Association of Transportation Regulators, shared his expertise on new federal recommendations related to pupil transportation.
Daus outlined guidance on providing safe student transportation during the pandemic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He advised pupil transporters to be sure they have a “Return to Work Safety Plan” in place that conforms with guidance from the three federal organizations. That plan should include practices for social distancing; hygiene and cleaning and use of EPA-approved cleaning products; communication; mask use and disposal; screening; contact tracing; and procedures for sick employees.
Another topic that Daus covered was liability issues. He noted, for example, that employers cannot exclude employees with underlying health conditions from on-site work locations. However, they can, as part of their Return to Work Safety Plan, screen employees for COVID-19 and make “disability-related inquiries and conduct medical exams if job related and consistent with business necessity” to exclude an employee with a medical condition that poses a direct threat to health and safety. Additionally, Daus said, employers should prepare a direct threat analysis that includes an assessment of an employee’s condition based on relevant factors and a determination of whether a threat can be reduced or eliminated through reasonable accommodation.
Daus also recommended details to consider for effective contract negotiations during the pandemic.