Employers have a duty to their employees to keep them protected as best as they can while in their workspace. In the coming weeks, employees and customers alike will be slowly released from mandated quarantine. Even though everything is recovering at this point, it is still necessary to keep safety precautions in mind and active while conducting business.
What precautions need to be taken before employees return?
Before any employees return, employers need to make sure the workspace they’re coming back to is clean and virus-free. Employers should make sure to sanitize all workspaces before employees return to work. For the foreseeable future, all workspaces should be regularly and thoroughly sanitized at least daily, if not more frequently. Furthermore, it is essential for continue observing social distancing practices. It is critical to follow the guidelines set out the health and safety of the public. For more details, refer to the guidelines that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) have released.
What are some strategies to follow health guidelines?
- Limit meetings and conferences- continue to use online platforms for meetings whenever possible
- Practice social distancing whenever a meeting is necessary
- Restrict non-employee access to employee workspaces
- Increase spacing between individual workspaces; cubicles, desks, etc.
- Where possible, install partitions
- Allow employees to wear protective masks and gloves during work
- Close off spaces where employees tend to congregate or limit the amount of employees allowed in at any time
- Discourage employees from use each other’s phones, desks, office space, or other work tools/equipment
- Consider monitoring all employees for fevers to attempt to catch any sick employees before they can infect others
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Agency) have also provided Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 for when employees return to work. They have identified four workplace risk categories and ask for increased precautions with higher risk factors.
Very High Exposure Risk:
- Healthcare employees performing aerosol-generating procedures on known or suspected pandemic patients.
- Healthcare or laboratory personnel collecting or handling specimens from known or suspected pandemic patients.
High Exposure Risk:
- Healthcare delivery and support staff exposed to known or suspected pandemic patients.
- Medical transport of known or suspected pandemic patients in enclosed vehicles.
- Performing autopsies on known or suspected pandemic patients.
Medium Exposure Risk:
- Employees with high-frequency contact with the general population (such as schools, high population density work environments, and some high-volume retail).
Lower Exposure Risk (Caution):
- Employees who have minimal occupational contact with the general public and other coworkers (such as office employees).
They also suggest developing an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan for dealing with any suspected or confirmed exposures. OSHA reminds employers to keep in mind any employees who may be in an at-risk group, whatever non-occupational risks could be involved, and what sources could be risks to employee health.
There is a landscaping company with 65 employees that continued to operate throughout the quarantine with full staff. Every day in the morning and evening they would have meetings to remind employees about safety standards. They required that employees follow sanitary protocols- wash hands multiple times a day, wear masks and gloves, and stick strictly to all sanitization procedures. They also had quality control inspectors and management patrolling to be absolutely sure that everyone was being safe and sanitary.
Employers must be mindful about their employees’ health and safety so that everything can get back to normal and customers can be properly served again.