DHS Releases Second Update to its Guidance on Essential Critical Operations and Workers During COVID-19

On April 17, 2020, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued the latest update, Version 3.0, to its “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” guidelines, intended to help state and other local officials decide what workers may need to continue to operate when coronavirus-related (COVID-19) stay at home orders are in place. AFS weighed-in with CISA to include metals-related workers, including the key sectors the metalcasting industry supplies to. In addition, AFS sent letters to over a dozen governors to urge they adopt the CISA guidance in order that foundries could continue to operate as an essential business. To date, more than 30 states and numerous other jurisdictions have incorporated or referenced CISA’s essential workforce guidance.  

The new CISA Version 3.0 guidance provides numerous additions and changes to Version 2.0. It clarifies that aerospace and auto supply chain workers are critical. For example, throughout the document, CISA changed language referring to “employees” to “workers,” and clarified it is intended to apply to both employees and contractors that perform duties deemed to be essential. Other changes, per sector, include:

Considerations for Manufacturers/Business

  • Employers must comply with OSHA requirements. CISA added that employers must comply with applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for protecting critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Personal protective equipment. CISA added the recommendation that critical infrastructure employers consider how best to implement the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to wear masks. For example, CISA notes that employers may provide disposable facemasks such as surgical masks instead of cloth face coverings depending on their particular circumstances.
  • Sick leave. Employers should consider that sick leave policies may contribute to employees’ decisions to delay reporting medical symptoms. In addition, sick employees should not return to work until they meet the home isolation criteria.
  • Reintegration of exposed workers. Employers have the obligation to protect others by limiting to the extent possible the reintegration of workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 but remain asymptomatic.
  • IT workers. CISA clarified that information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) workers for critical infrastructure operations are essential.
  • Essential worker access. The guidance now makes clear that “essential critical infrastructure workers need continued and unimpeded access to sites, facilities, and equipment within quarantine zones, containment areas, or other areas where access or movement is limited,” and they “should be exempted from curfews, shelter-in-place orders, and transportation restrictions or restrictions on movement.”

Critical Manufacturing (Including Metals)

  • Essential workers. The guidance adds “workers manufacturing or providing parts and equipment that enable the maintenance and continued operation of essential businesses and facilities” as essential workers. In addition, its adds supply chains associated with “aerospace.”

Transportation and Logistics

  • Essential Workers. Workers critical to the manufacturing, distribution, sales, rental, leasing, repair, and maintenance of vehicles and other transportation equipment (including electric vehicle charging stations) and the supply chains that enable these operations to facilitate continuity of travel-related operations for essential workers.

Electricity Industry

  • Construction, utility telecommunications, and electric industry workers. The CISA guidance on essential workers now specifically includes construction workers as well as utility telecommunications, and “[w]orkers in the electricity industry including but not limited to those supporting safety, construction, manufacturing, transportation, permitting, operation/maintenance, engineering, physical and cyber security, monitoring, and logistics.”

Petroleum Industry

  • Manufacturing and distribution. The CISA guidance now specifically includes “[m]anufacturing and distribution of equipment, supplies, and parts necessary for production, maintenance, restoration, and service of petroleum and petroleum product operations and use, including end-users.”

Communications and Information Technology

  • Workers supporting persons with disabilities. The CISA guidance adds “workers responsible for ensuring that persons with disabilities have access to and the benefits of various communications platforms, including those involved in the provision of telecommunication relay services, closed captioning of broadcast television for the deaf, video relay services for deaf citizens who prefer communication via American Sign Language over text, and audio-description for television programming.”

As a reminder, the guidance notes that state, local, tribal, and territorial governments are ultimately in charge of implementing and executing response activities in communities under their jurisdiction, while the federal government is in a supporting role.