For several months now since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic across the world, many people considered nonessential workers have been able to continue working and operating from their homes while following the “stay home, work safe” order.
This may be the “new normal” for much of the workforce here in the U.S. and worldwide, but many described as essential workers still need to report to their jobs. This would include workers in the medical field, food production and distribution, and the service industry.
While some jobs cannot be done remotely, business operation decisions should be based on both the level of disease transmission in the community and your readiness to protect the safety and health of your employees and customers.
Whether you are phasing in a return to the workplace or jumping full speed ahead, businesses and employers are encouraged to coordinate with state and local health officials to obtain timely and accurate information to create a plan that works best for you and your employee’s specific needs.
Local conditions will influence the decisions that public health officials make regarding community-level strategies. For best results follow the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for providing a safe work environment slow the spread of COVID-19 within the workplace.
The following are suggestions for providing a healthy and safe work environment:
- Educate your workforce and monitor developments daily
- Provide weekly briefings to employees on COVID-19 updates in your city, state, and region.
- Inform employees about the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and the proper way to secure a diagnosis and seek treatment if necessary.
- Reminders about safety precautions, good hygiene, and preventive measures
- Reinforce the use of face masks when in public
- Remind employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces or objects
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
- Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue or using elbows or shoulders
- Follow social distancing guidelines
- Avoid contact with people who are sick or could be sick
- Stay home if you are feeling sick
- Keep an adequate supply of cleaning products and protective gear at the workplace
- Provide face masks and gloves
- Stock up on hand soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, tissue, disinfecting wipes, paper towels, etc.
- Provide no-touch disposal receptacles and no-touch sanitizer dispensers around work areas in multiple locations
- Remind employees and cleaning personnel to wipe down with disinfecting wipes frequently touched surfaces (phones, keyboards, door handles, countertops, workstations, etc.) or schedule deep-cleaning and sanitizing services
- Encourage employees who are feeling sick or are sick to stay home
- Immediately send home employees that may present COVID-19 symptoms
- Allow flexibility with attendance policies and sick leave during this time
- Make sure employees who are sick adhere to the CDC quarantine policy
Another part of workplace safety is keeping your valued employees in the loop and effectively communicating important COVID-19 information and workplace policies and expectations. As an employer, if you want employees to take a more active and responsible role during this unprecedented time, then seek their input in decisions. As an employee, you want to be seen and heard so now is the time to take the initiative and bring your good or bad ideas to the table.