At the beginning of the pandemic, many employers and businesses struggled to identify the best ways to maintain their operations without jeopardizing their employees’ safety. It is almost a year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID 19 outbreak a pandemic. Most workplaces have taken different measures to keep their operations running. Many have closed their doors to the public; some accept visitors only by appointment, while a vast majority of corporate and tech America now work from home.
Some offices may consider reviewing their operation methods now that the COVID-19 vaccine is available. However, the vaccine is in limited distribution based on the CDC recommendations on who should get vaccinated first. It may take a little longer before the vaccine becomes accessible to the general public. Here are a few suggestions to promote workplace safety and minimize the risk of an outbreak at work.
Employees – Be Mindful
It easy to lose guard and relax on safety measures when you spend 40 to 80 hours of the week at the same location with the same people. It is crucial to accept that workplace culture can not remain the same as it was pre-pandemic. While you may follow the recommended safety guidelines, remember that everyone else may not be as careful outside of the work environment. In-person meetings, handshakes, hi-fives, hugs, sharing equipment or stationery, etc., now come with their risks and should be avoided.
Implement regular sanitation practices for your space if one is not already in place. Sanitize shared high touch surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, coffee pots, fax machines, and phones before and after use or use a touch tool. Follow the safety guidelines put in place by your employer and the CDC COVID-19 safety recommended guidelines.
Tips for Employers
Restructure Standards of Operation
Establish communication methods that minimize direct contact for onsite workers where practicable. It would be best to restructure the workspace’s physical layout if permissible to allow social distancing. Install physical barriers in communal areas and ensure that each worker is as far apart as possible. Implementing scheduling measures that reduce the number of workers present at the same time or give employees a choice of remote work where applicable is another effective way to help reduce contact among employees.
Implement a COVID-19 Testing & Contact Tracing solution.
The availability of regular testing ensures that infections are caught as early as possible in the workplace. This service and contact tracing enable employers to track and inform a diagnosed employee’s coworkers of their possible contact with a diagnosed case and recommend the safety guidelines for individuals who have been exposed. Knowledge of a diagnosed case will also help employers know when to implement additional sanitary measures to prevent further spread in the workplace. Additionally, take extra precautions such as daily symptom screenings and temperature checks before allowing employees into the workspace. Doing this helps reduce the possibility of a sick person infecting others. Still, it does not eliminate the risk of exposure due to asymptomatic cases.
Increase Sanitary Measures
To protect onsite workers, ensure that there are provisions to regularly clean and disinfect shared spaces and common areas throughout the workday. Ensure that hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are accessible to employees at all times. Require workers to sanitize shared items before and after every use. If possible, post signs to encouraging handwashing, social distancing, mask-wearing, and other workplace safety practices. If you accept clients or customers at your establishment, post signs urging them to stay home if they feel sick.
Require Sick Employees to Stay Home
Typically, employers can send sick employees home or prevent them from coming to work if they believe that the employee poses a threat to others’ safety in the workplace. Due to the high risk of an infection spread with COVID-19, it is crucial to ensure that your employees feel comfortable speaking up when they are sick or think they’ve been exposed. In a case where an employee develops symptoms at the workplace and can not leave immediately, OSHA recommends. isolating “the individual in a location away from workers, customers, and other visitors and with a closed-door (e.g., in a single-occupancy restroom), if possible until they can go home or leave to seek medical care.”
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