by Terry Layman, MD, SVP Corporate Medical Director
When returning to the workplace, each company’s plan will be unique. Among many considerations, factors such as company size, industry, and location come into play. For companies to respond to this pandemic and return employees into their workplace in a safe and responsible way, it is important to consider guidelines that are tailored for each industry – one size does not always fit all. In last week’s blog, we took a look at some safety and procedural recommendations for all businesses and industries to consider. This week, we’ll be diving into some of those industry-specific suggestions.To note – within each industry, it is highly suggested that workers wear masks to cover their nose and mouth to prevent the spread of the virus.
Within the manufacturing industry, social distancing can sometimes be a challenge – for work activities where this is the case, consider limiting the duration of these activities and/or implementing a safe approach to keep employees at a distance from each other. This might mean temporarily moving or repositioning workstations to create more distance or installing barriers (e.g. plexiglass shields) between workstations. Discourage employees from sharing tools when possible and equipment and educate employees on how to clean equipment before and after use. This should be done whether or not employees are sharing equipment. Promote personal hygiene – if workers do not have access to soap and water for handwashing, provide alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
The construction industry offers its own set of challenges and specific considerations. To the extent that tools or equipment must be shared, as with the manufacturing industry, discourage employees from sharing tools when possible and provide/instruct workers to use alcohol-based wipes to clean tools before and after use. When cleaning tools and equipment, workers should consult manufacturer recommendations for proper cleaning techniques and restrictions. Keep in-person meetings (including toolbox talks and safety meetings) as short as possible, limit the number of workers in attendance, and use social distancing practices. Clean and disinfect frequently touched items (e.g. door pulls and jobsite toilets) frequently. Hand sanitizer dispensers should also be filled regularly and proper hygiene practices encouraged.
For the package delivery workforce, it is important to minimize interaction between drivers and customers by leaving deliveries at loading docks, doorsteps, or other locations that do not require person-to-person exposures. Along with this, discouraging workers from using other workers’ vehicles, tablets, and other equipment or educating workers on how to clean equipment, is something that should be considered as well.
For retail workers, a major part of the job is interacting with store patrons and customers. For this reason, special considerations should be taken to account for this. Whenever possible, limit customer volume and practice sensible social distancing, maintaining six feet between co-workers and customers. Demarcate six-foot distances with floor tape in checkout lines. Workplaces where social distancing is a challenge should consider innovative approaches, such as opening only every other cash register, temporarily moving workstations to create more distance, and installing plexiglass partitions. Use a drive-through window or curbside pick-up where necessary and be sure to provide workers and customers with tissues and trash receptacles.
The current state of things is variable and dynamic across the country. There is variation by region, state, county, and local jurisdiction, and also within these specific industries. We appreciate how everyone is adapting during this time. From manufacturers changing products to schools making huge adjustments to scheduling, everyone has done such a remarkable job staying connected and shifting their operational approach. This same flexibility and adaptability will be crucial in the months to come as businesses across the country reopen their doors to their workforce. Utilizing a framework when returning to work is crucial for maintaining a safe and responsible workplace.
For more considerations, as well as sample tools and guidelines, take a look at our Return to Business eBook.