CISA provides updated guidance for essential businesses and workers

Blog Post

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic McDonald Hopkins has followed and summarized the various guidelines and recommendations released by the Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). In our first article, we navigated CISA’s initial advisory memorandum, which identified certain critical infrastructure workers and helped businesses and workers determine if they qualified as “essential.” The new Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers Guidance Version 4.0, released by CISA on August 18, takes a somewhat different approach than prior versions. Instead of assisting officials and organizations in identifying essential work functions, the new guidance lists those essential workers that require specialized risk management strategies to ensure they can work safely. In addition, CISA hopes that the guidance will assist workers and organizations plan and prepare for the allocation of resources used to protect essential workers. The following guidance and recommendations are meant to assist states and localities across the country during various phased reopenings and as they consider essential workers in new work settings, including schools.  

Risk categorization methodology

CISA recommends that all organizations categorize employees according to a risk factor matrix to assist with mitigation strategies that will enhance safety. Organizations are encouraged to consider the following factors:

  • Setting: Are workers indoors or outdoors?
  • Proximity: How physically close are workers to each other?
  • Type of contact: Do workers touch shared surfaces, common items, and other workers?
  • Duration: How long does an average interaction last?
  • Number of different contacts: How many interactions occur daily?
  • Employee risk factors: Which workers face heightened risk due to age or other medical conditions?
  • Capability to assess possible infection: Are there available screening protocols to protect workers?
  • Cleaning: How frequently can the facility be cleaned?

The above questions are intended to help organizations categorize conditions that their workers face on a daily basis and implement measures to avoid exposure and maintain a safe working environment. Organizations are encouraged to reconsider employee functions and the ability to work from home or in a manner that allows for more social distancing. When assessing the above risk factor matrix, organizations and workers should also consider local factors that may influence their exposure to COVID-19, including infection rates, the availability of testing, the criticality of the business to the local or state economy, and the need to prepare and respond to other events such as natural disasters.

Sector-specific essential workers

Similarly to prior versions of the CISA guidelines, version 4 provides a nonexclusive list of essential workers in each sector. We have previously identified various essential workers in our March 31 article, but have provided an updated summary below –

  1. Healthcare/public health – Laboratory personnel, physicians, dentists, psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, speech pathologists, technicians, support service, security, administrative staff, housekeeping, nutritionists, urgent care workers, home care workers, transportation providers, manufacturers, donors, home health workers, retail workers, telehealth, and mortuary service providers.
  2. Law enforcement, public safety, and other first responders – Public and voluntary personnel, rescue personnel, fusion center workers, firearm retailers and distributors, shooting ranges, public agency workers, security staff, child protective services, and public safety facilities.
  3. Education – Workers who support education of preschool, K-12, college, university, career and technical information, teacher aides, special education teachers, administrative staff, IT specialists, librarians, guidance counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, bus drivers, crossing guards, cafeteria workers, cleaning workers, maintenance workers, superintendents, and educators supporting distance learning.
  4. Food and agriculture – Workers enabling sale of human and animal food, pet supply workers, quick serve food operations, food prep centers, food manufacturer workers, suppliers, farmers, fuel ethanol facilities, pest control, greenhouses, cafeteria workers, food assistance programs, transportation workers, and drug and chemical production companies.
  5. Energy – Workers supporting the energy sector, hot water and steam facilities, energy/commodity trading and scheduling, renewal energy infrastructure, environmental remediation workers, equipment manufacturers and suppliers, fuel procurement, transportation workers, coal mines, control technicians, offshore petroleum drillers, retail fuel centers such as gas stations, and workers at natural gas facilities.
  6. Water and wastewater – Workers needed to operate and maintain drinking water and wastewater and drainage infrastructure.
  7. Transportation and logistics – Truck drivers, bus drivers, dispatchers, repair technicians, warehouse workers, rest area workers, education centers, food distribution workers, workers supporting essential highway infrastructure, mass transit workers, police, freight train operators, maritime transportation workers, safety inspectors, air traffic controllers, and flight instructors.
  8. Public works and infrastructure support services – Workers who support the construction or rehabilitation of critical infrastructure, delivery services, inspectors, plumbers, electricians, exterminators, builders, HVAC technicians, and workers who support parks and outdoor recreational facilities.
  9. Communications and information technology – Communications maintenance, call centers, operators, wireless providers, government sector workers and contractors, network operations staff, engineers, repair technicians, data centers, support staff, monitoring and safety staff, retail customer service, IT personnel, field engineers, designers, workers supporting communications systems, and workers required to support remote working.
  10. Other Community or Government Based Operations and Essential Functions – Workers to ensure continuity of building functions, elections personnel, judges, lawyers, employment services, government workers, trade officials, reporters, workers supporting Census 2020, weather forecasters, clergy, customs and immigration workers, education centers, staff at government offices, real estate services, workers performing services to animals in human care, veterinarians, and childcare service providers.
  11. Critical manufacturing – Metal manufacturers, workers necessary for PPE, mining and critical minerals, workers who produce essential services for the remote workforce, and workers manufacturing parts for the continued operation of essential businesses and facilities.
  12. Hazardous materials – Workers who manage and support hazardous materials, response and cleanup, and workers who maintain digital systems infrastructure supporting hazardous materials management operations.
  13. Financial services – Commercial lenders, accountants, cash carriers, security, workers providing electronic point of sale support, and workers who support law enforcement requests.
  14. Chemical – Workers at chemical manufacturing plants and distribution facilities, workers supporting safe transportation and production, PPE production workers, and workers who support the operation of high-risk facilities.
  15. Defense industrial base – Workers who support national security, nuclear matters workers, engineers, security staff, intelligence support, weapon system mechanics, Department of Defense subcontractors, and personnel working in support of the military, intelligence and space forces.
  16. Commercial facilities – Workers who support the supply chain of building materials from production through application and installation, call center facilities, warehouse staff, workers in retail and non-retail businesses, wholesalers, distributors, workers distributing and servicing HVAC systems and heating equipment, property managers, building engineers, security staff, fire safety directors, janitorial personnel, and hotel staff.
  17. Residential/shelter facilities, housing and real estate, and related services – Traveling medical staff, workers who support food and shelters, animal shelters, workers responsible for the leasing of residential properties, property managers, workers performing housing and commercial construction related activities, inspectors, government workers, workers performing services in support of the elderly and disabled populations, and workers responsible for the movement of household goods.
  18. Hygiene products and services – Hygiene product producers, laundromats, dry cleaners, workers providing household repairs and maintenance, disinfection service workers, support required for continuity of services, cleaning personnel, janitors, pest control, home cleaning, and workers supporting agriculture irrigation infrastructure.

The above list and guidelines provided by CISA are not exhaustive and are intended to act as advisory guidance on defining and identifying the essential sectors and workers that are crucial to community resilience and continuity of essential functions.

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