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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Workers as Health Monitors: An Assessment of Los Angeles County’s Workplace Public Health Council Proposal


The County of Los Angeles faces an extraordinary task in the coming weeks as it attempts to reduce its record COVID-19 rates while fostering a beleaguered economy. Health officials observe that workplaces throughout LA County are focal points of transmission, as enforcement of public health orders has lagged in a climate of desperation and fear. Lack of access to information and inadequate reporting mechanisms for public health order violations, particularly LA County’s detailed, industry-specific “Reopening Safer at Work and in the Community” (County Health Order) jeopardize public health and economic recovery. Meanwhile, the County’s Department of Public Health (DPH) lacks sufficient investigators to pose a credible threat of a compliance check at the county’s 244,000 businesses.

This report examines the costs and benefits of an innovative LA County proposal to recruit frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19 transmission. The proposal requires businesses to permit employees to form public safety councils who meet with management to plan and troubleshoot compliance and report regularly to the DPH. Workers who participate would be free from retaliation. The DPH in turn would designate organizations to convene, train, and assist public health councils to spot and report violations.

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