The Top Three Considerations for Companies Returning to Work
As companies begin to consider bringing employees back to the workplace, safety will continue to be a top concern. How can you know you’re doing enough to help protect the well-being of your greatest assets – your people? Your employees need assurance of a safe workplace and the trust of a company that has their safety in mind. Here are three questions to ask while undertaking this monumental task.
1. Do you have the right plans in place and are they being implemented?
To protect members of your workforce, the right plans of action need to be developed and implemented. Plans should address proactive steps before and reactive measures following a confirmed or presumed COVID-19 case at the facility. Specific information found in plans varies across industries and geography, but plans generally have common elements. Examples include symptoms, preparedness, communication and messaging, training, safety considerations, and actions to mitigate. Ideally, disinfection/facility cleaning protocols and best management practices (BMP) should be developed and/or reviewed by a certified industrial hygienist and reviewed frequently to reflect the changing guidelines and recommendations communicated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and local Departments of Health. Until direct environmental tests which can demonstrate the absence of COVID-19 viruses from a surface become available, it is important to document that the properly developed disinfection plan was faithfully implemented. One method of documentation is to have an independent third party oversee and confirm that the plan was implemented as written. With the development, implementation, and oversight of the proper plans, you can convey to your workers that you’ve considered their well-being as they return to work considering the challenges presented by COVID-19. Plan the work, work the plan, and update as necessary.
2. Should you consider implementing medical screening?
One of the most common ways we have seen companies consider the health, safety, and well-being of their employees, vendors, and communities is through active screening of incoming personnel. This generally consists of a nurse, medic, or medical technician asking specific questions of employees, vendors, and/or contractors. The questions are based on CDC guidance and are followed by temperature screening using a no-touch digital thermometer. Screening can be done by a third-party entity, by an in-house team, or self-reported by employees. Screening can help you understand your employees’ recent travels, exposures to COVID-19-confirmed or presumed individuals, and other situations which increase the likelihood of COVID-19 exposure. Discovering exposure likelihood in one or more of your employees may help reduce the opportunities to introduce COVID-19 into your workplace. Initial screening has additional benefits as well: employees can become engaged in the process, helping them consider their behaviors and symptoms outside the workplace which may be indicative of COVID-19 exposure.
3. Have you considered contact tracing?
Contact tracing is the collection of information about the movement and whereabouts of your employees within the workplace so that should an outbreak occur in one location or shift, steps can be taken to contain and/or isolate it from affecting otherwise non-affected areas or shifts. This is especially important for employees that, by the very nature of their work, can’t fully observe the social distancing recommendations from the CDC. By implementing proactive contact tracing measures, your organization is better equipped to identify a possible outbreak from the onset, enact steps to isolate or minimize exposures, reduce potential infection to other employees, and help keep workers safe. This can also help prevent workers from taking an outbreak home to their families and potentially expose the community.
The return to work process will be both vital and complex for even the largest and most well-equipped companies. We understand this challenge and can offer our services to help you in your return to normalcy. For more information on what CTEH can offer, visit CTEH.com.
Any scientific or medical information included in this article is current as of the date of publication; however, public health knowledge of COVID-19 is rapidly developing. Readers are advised to monitor national, state and local public health agencies for current recommendations regarding any infectious disease.