Contagious illnesses often create a bad work environment because they put you at risk of getting sick. They often easily spread through droplets in the air or through contact with other people. They may live on the surfaces around you as well. It is not easy for you to protect yourself against them without proper equipment.
You may wonder if your employer has a duty to protect you from such diseases. According to the New Jersey Department of Health, there is a general PPE standard that all employers must follow in the state. In some cases, this might include providing you with personal protective equipment when there is a contagious illness present.
Your employer has a duty to assess the situation and determine if there is a hazard present that requires the use of PPE. If so, it must provide it to you at no cost and give you proper training on its use. Your employer must inform you how, when, where and why to wear the PPE. It must also make you aware of the limitations and remaining risks that might occur despite PPE use and how to properly care for the equipment.
For situations not specifically listed as hazardous under normal rules, the assessment of a hazard is often up to your employer. However, in the case of a public health emergency, it is likely that government agencies may issue instructions that would require employers to provide PPE to employees to protect against infectious and contagious diseases. In addition, your employer gets to choose the type and kind of PPE it issues to you.