As businesses are reopening across the country, your business must consider how to safely get back to work. Following state and local guidance for reopening safely is a great place to start. Here, we provide you with some helpful guidelines provided by OSHA.
1- Develop an Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response Plan
If you have not already implemented one, develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that can help guide protective actions against COVID-19. Plans should consider and address the level(s) of risk associated with various worksites and job tasks that workers perform at those sites. Considerations for your plan include:
- Where, how, and to what sources of SARS-CoV-2 might workers be exposed
- Non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
- Workers’ individual risk factors (e.g., older age; the presence of chronic medical conditions, including immunocompromising conditions; pregnancy).
- Controls necessary to address those risks.
2- Prepare to Implement Basic Infection Prevention Measures
Stepping up basic hygiene and disease prevention practices is a must when working toward reopening. The following guidelines are simple to implement:
- Promote frequent and thorough handwashing and use of alcohol-based sanitizer gels.
- Encourage workers to stay home if they feel sick.
- Encourage “respiratory etiquette” such as coughing and sneezing into sleeves.
- Implement social distancing measures where possible such as:
- Teleworking, staggered shifts, etc.
- Discourage sharing of high touch items like phones, desks, tools, etc.
- Implement routine cleaning measures that include disinfecting practices that kill surface viruses.
Most of these protective measures can be implemented through memos or signage encouraging workers to take part in basic infection prevention measures.
3 – Develop Policies and Procedures for Prompt Identification and Isolation of Sick People, if Appropriate
It may be unavoidable for a business with hundreds or thousands of employees to have an employee who has become infected it is important to plans and procedures in place to take action with regard to the safety of the employee, other employees, and members of the public know the precautions your company has taken to protect, defend, and mitigate the situation.
- Employees with symptoms (fever, cough, or shortness of breath) at work should immediately be separated and sent home.
- Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare facility.
- Notify local health officials, staff, and customers (if possible) immediately of a possible case while maintaining confidentiality consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other applicable federal and state privacy laws.
Employers should encourage self-monitoring for symptoms.
4 – Develop, Implement, and Communicate about Workplace Flexibilities and Protections
In these unprecedented times, effective communication and increased flexibility are a must for survival. These guidelines can help you keep your workers feeling reassured and safe:
- Ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidelines.
- Do not require a note from a healthcare provider for an employee to take sick leave.
- Be aware of the increased need for workers to remain home to care for sick family members.
- Be aware of workers’ concerns about pay, leave, safety, and health and address these concerns appropriately.
5 – Implement Workplace Controls
There are four categories of controls you can implement into the workplace to help eliminate or reduce the threat of Covid-19. The four categories are engineering controls, administrative controls, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Engineering controls are considered the most effective and overall effectiveness goes down with each subsequent category. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of control measure when considering the ease of implementation, effectiveness, and cost. In most cases, a combination of control measures will be necessary to protect workers from exposure.
- Installing high-efficiency air filters.
- Increasing ventilation rates in the work environment.
- Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
- Installing a drive-through window for customer service
- Encouraging staying home when sick
- Minimizing contact between workers, clients, customers, etc.
- Staggering shifts
- Discontinuing nonessential travel
Safe Work Practices:
- Providing resources for personal hygiene (sanitizers, hand washing stations, etc.)
- Requiring regular handwashing
- Providing gloves, goggles, face shields, and masks for workers who need them
- Ensure proper wearing of and disposal of PPE
6 – Follow Existing OSHA Standards
While there is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19 exposure, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. To read about those, click here.
7 – Classify worker exposure to COVID-19
At each risk level (very high, high, medium and low), there are guidelines and recommendations to follow. To read more about that, click here.