After having lived in this pandemic for nearly one year, most of us are no stranger to the standard precautions: wash your hands and keep your distance. However, now that more and more people in non-essential industries are returning to work, there are health and safety standards that can keep your employees safe and productive.
At Cornerstone, our loss control team helps companies of all sizes keep their workplaces as safe and healthy as possible, and COVID-19 has added a new layer to safety programs. Here is what you should know about mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in your workplace.
COVID-19 Prevention Programs in the Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently published guidelines for workplaces to help mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19. While these do not imply any legal obligations — though OSHA can cite workplaces under their General Duty Clause — they are standards that should be implemented to reduce transmission.
Conduct a Hazard Assessment
See where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work. Involve employees in this process as they are often the most familiar with conditions within the workplace. Depending on your workplace, you may be able to classify workers as lower risk, medium risk or high risk. This will depend on their job description, their health status, and where they live and work. Consider additional protections for higher-risk employees.
Assess your occupational hazards to which your employees may be exposed, which may require the need for additional PPE or distancing measures.
Identify and Implement Tactics that Limit Spread
Go through your workplace and identify the measures that can be implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19. This may include:
- Implement physical distancing in all communal work areas or install barriers where physical distancing can’t be maintained
- Encourage or require the use of face coverings
- Evaluate and improve (if needed) office ventilation
- Offer applicable PPE to protect workers (this may be industry-dependent)
- Provide necessary supplies for good hygiene practices
- Conduct routine cleaning and disinfection of all spaces
Adopt Measures for Infected Employees
Unfortunately, you may encounter an employee who has been infected or potentially infected with COVID-19. Instruct those in that category to stay home and isolate or quarantine. Make sure your current policies do not encourage workers to come to work sick and that, when possible, your employees are set up for success at home or in isolated areas. If this is not possible, allow workers to use paid sick leave or consider implementing paid leave policies to reduce the risk for those in the workplace.
If someone has been infected or exposed, conduct a more thorough cleaning and disinfection process in your facilities.
Implement Protections from Worker Retaliations
Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits the discharging of and discrimination against an employee for participating in occupational safety and health activities. In terms of COVID-19, this may mean they have raised a reasonable amount of concern regarding infection control in the workplace. Ensure that workers know who they need to contact with questions or concerns about COVID-19 and safety measures.
The COVID-19 landscape — as well as its accompanying rules, regulations and recommendations — are still changing. If you have any questions on how to create a safe workplace, please contact your Cornerstone Insurance Group representative today.
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