By Terry Layman, MD, SVP Corporate Medical Director
Over the past few months, we have been creating a strategic Return to Business framework to help our customers address the impact of COVID-19 and resume operations while protecting the ongoing health and safety of employees. As more businesses open up, utilizing a framework is crucial to return to the workplace in a safe and responsible way.
We have organized this framework into four pillars:
Workforce Planning: Evaluation and feasibility of response components tailored to the specific workforce; for example, public sector, manufacturing, hospitality, and food service, among others.
Physical Environment: Evaluation of the physical workspace and identification of risks and opportunities to reduce the spread of infectious diseases.
Active Monitoring: Biomarker monitoring (temperature and other symptoms), including digital symptom monitoring, contact tracing, and virtual visits for those with elevated risk factors.
Prevention and Sustainability: Measures to maintain a safe work environment, ongoing monitoring and follow-up and, as available, vaccines, effective treatments, and ongoing best practice learnings.
During this process, it is important to be thoughtful about communications with your employees. Being up front and communicating the measures being taken to provide a safe work environment is crucial.
Below are five suggestions for all businesses to keep in mind when returning employees to the workplace:
- Perform a worksite survey to determine where and how employees might be exposed to COVID-19 at work, in accordance with OSHA guidelines. This would include evaluating employee movement in, out, and throughout the workplace, and identifying potential controls to prevent the spread of infection, such as:
- Engineering controls – Installing high-efficiency air filters, increasing the ventilation rates in the work environment, installing physical barriers such as clear plastic sneeze guards where social distancing is not possible, or installing a drive-through window for customer service.
- Administrative controls – Using virtual meetings whenever possible, establishing alternating days or extra shifts to reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, discontinuing non-essential travel, providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19, and training workers on the proper donning and use of protective clothing and equipment.
- Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, or other work tools and equipment. If work tools and equipment must be shared, determine cleaning methods necessary in between uses.
- Practice sensible social distancing and maintain six feet between co-workers, where possible, and encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes.
- Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based sanitizer, disinfectants, and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
- Maintain regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved products that are effective against COVID-19. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use of all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, PPE).
When it comes to prevention and sustainability long-term, we stand ready to be a resource as new information comes to light and future vaccines and/or treatments are developed. We remain a consultative partner for our customers when navigating this transitional time.
Stay tuned for more industry-specific suggestions for returning to business in next week’s blog!