When an employee claims they contracted COVID-19 at work, the employer must conduct an investigation for OSHA and workers' comp purposes.
Proper Workplace Safety Controls for Reopening from COVID-19
If you've identified potential coronavirus threats to your employees or customers, implement the following workplace safety controls before reopening.
If your business is ready to reopen from the coronavirus pandemic, be sure you have proactively assessed COVID-19 risks. If there are potential coronavirus threats to your employees or customers, consider implementing the following workplace safety controls.
Utilize Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
PPE is equipment worn by individuals to reduce exposure to a hazard. Businesses should focus on training workers on proper PPE best practices, such as how to properly put on, take off and care for PPE. Training material should be easy to understand and must be available in the appropriate language and literacy level for all workers.
Consider engineering controls
Engineering controls protect workers by removing hazardous conditions. These may be the most cost-effective, as you won’t have to rely on behavior modifications from employees. OSHA suggests the following engineering controls for COVID-19:
- 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
You may need to change work schedules or business practices to maintain critical operations. This may include alternating days or extra shifts that reduce the total number of employees in a facility at a given time, utilizing alternative suppliers, prioritizing existing customers or suspending portions of your operations.
Encourage social distancing
In terms of COVID-19, social distancing best practices for businesses can include:
- Avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people
- Instructing workers to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from other people
- Hosting meetings virtually when possible
- Limiting the number of people on the job site to essential personnel only
- Encouraging or requiring staff to work from home when possible
- Discouraging people from shaking hands
Manage the different risk levels of their employee
It’s important to be aware that some employees may be at higher risk for serious illness, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. Consider minimizing face-to-face contact between these employees or assign work tasks that allow them to maintain a social distance of 6 feet from other workers, customers and visitors.
Separate sick employees
According to the CDC, employees who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough or shortness of breath) upon arrival at work or who become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers and visitors, and sent home. If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19. The employer should instruct fellow employees about how to proceed based on the CDC Public Health Recommendations for Community-Related Exposure.
Support respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene
Businesses should encourage good hygiene to prevent the spread of COVD-19, such as:
- Providing tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles
- Providing soap and water in the workplace
- Placing hand sanitizers in multiple locations to encourage hand hygiene
Perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection
- Cleaning and disinfecting all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
- Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other tools and equipment, when possible. If necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Providing disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces can be wiped down by employees before each use.
While resuming operations following the COVID-19 pandemic may seem like a daunting task, businesses don’t have to do it alone. Our Stratus.hr professionals can help you determine what actions to take to ensure your business reopens smoothly. To learn more, contact our HR team at HR@stratus.hr.