As more and more people become vaccinated and the United States prepares for workers returning to work post-COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have developed safety guidelines. Take note that these guidelines are not a regulation or standard, however, they can be used to revamp a business’s safety policies and loss control protocols in order to enhance occupational safety post-COVID-19. “A proactive approach to addressing any and all potential risks which may exist at an organization’s job site(s) will save employers the headaches and costs associated with simply reacting to an outbreak after it takes place,” says Dave Brewer, Risk Management Specialist at PMC Insurance Group. Here are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Consider Employees Who Are Anxious About Returning to the Office
As businesses reopen in a post-COVID era, some employees will likely be apprehensive about returning to work due to safety concerns and the unknowns that continue to trouble many Americans. In the event some employees are worried about contracting the virus at work or infecting their loved ones back at home, it is important to address their concerns upfront. If feasible, evaluate the possibility of such employees working from home by considering the following:
• How critical is the employee’s role on-site – could they continue to work remotely?
• Could employees are given time off to get the vaccine and address their fears?
• Are there options for PTO, Paid Medical leave, or incentives for early retirement?
Implement Safety Measures at the Workplace
Incorporate anti-COVID measures in workplace health and safety protocols. Consult with the CDC and OSHA guidelines before developing a return-to-work plan. Examples of effective COVID-19 workplace guidelines and loss control protocols include, among others:
• Enabling social distancing by redesigning the arrangement of furniture and expanding space.
• Minimizing direct contact between employees by installing plexiglass barriers on tables and desks.
• Upgrading HVAC system and installing HEPA filters to purify the air in the workplace.
• Enforcing the on-site wearing of personal protective equipment.
• Making sanitation necessities available in sufficient quantities as well as frequent cleaning and disinfection of the premises.
• Advising employees to minimize movements, especially to areas that don’t require their presence.
Deploy Health Screening Technology
Regardless of the safety measures, a business puts in place, an employee can still contract COVID-19 in or outside of the workplace. While some infected patients show no symptoms, the common COVID-19 symptoms include, among others, dry cough, headaches, fatigue, fever, and difficulty in breathing. Consider implementing a temperature monitoring protocol and/or health questionnaire, be watchful for other symptoms, and keep health records.
Companies must always comply with the HIPAA privacy guidelines to protect employee privacy and avoid lawsuits. Develop a business continuity plan that addresses any body temperature screenings or other symptom monitoring strategies implemented. The plan should include proper protocols for protecting privacy rights, compliance with wage and hour laws, and best practices for record-keeping.
Take note that per the World Health Organization, even COVID-19 asymptomatic patients can transmit the virus to other people. Monitoring symptoms alone will not guarantee the safety of a workplace, therefore, other precautionary measures may be considered.
Have a Feasible Response Plan in Place
In case one or more employees test positive for COVID-19, an effective plan on how to handle it and prevent further spreading should be put in place. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends taking the following steps in case of a COVID-19 infection at the workplace.
• Deep cleaning and disinfection of surfaces
• Isolating those who test positive
• Encouraging those infected to stay at home
• Keeping in touch with those in isolation to minimize mental effects and offering them paid leave
• Offering financial support to those who require medical care through workers’ compensation insurance
“All organizations need to adapt to this unprecedented pandemic as we work to return to relative normalcy,” says Brewer. “Businesses that adhere to the most recent CDC, OSHA, WHO, guidelines to the best of their ability, will be well protected.” Should you have a question or need relative to your reopening plans and protocols, contact the PMC Risk Management team at 781.449.7744 or [email protected].