File photo

Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to create the nation’s first Public Health Councils program, which seeks to reduce the spread of Coronavirus in public workplaces by empowering local workers.

Having recognized that adherence to public health protocols in the workplace is essential to reducing COVID, supervisors agreed to the formation of a program that would allow councils, comprised of workers in food and apparel manufacturing, warehousing and storage and restaurants, a chance to educate their peers on health orders and help with the reporting of violations.

The Public Health Council program is expected to be implemented by the Department of Public Health sometime between now and December, according to the county leaders, who said the program will complement the work of the Safer at Work initiative and the Department of Public Health’s recently-launched Safety Compliance Certificate Program, which nearly 3,000 local employers have completed already.

The program comes on the heels of a surge in COVID cases throughout L.A. County in recent weeks and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the motion, hopes the councils will help lessen the outbreaks of COVID-19 in workplaces where health order compliance has been lax.

DPH will partner with certified worker organizations to support employees interested in forming workplace councils. Those councils will receive training on County health order protocols to help monitor compliance at their worksite. Participation in the program by employees is voluntary, but Kuehl said, “This is an all-hands on deck moment and I’m proud that LA County is launching this first-in-the-nation program.”

“As COVID-19 caseloads rise again, it is imperative that every employer and employee do their utmost to fully implement public health protocols to ensure the safety of members of the public as well as employees and their families,” Kuehl added.

Along with the communication tools for businesses and creative public art messaging that promote safe practices, the motion passed Tuesday also directs County Counsel to draft an anti-retaliation ordinance that would protect employees who may identify possible violations. Kuehl said that ordinance is expected to be voted on by the Board of Supervisors on November 24.

“Every worker has the right to feel safe in their workplace and to voice concerns without fear of losing their job,” said the motion’s co-author, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “The Public Health Councils and proposed anti-retaliation ordinance will protect thousands of workers and provide the tools desperately needed to curb workplace infections during the pandemic.”