The understanding and cooperation of employees is the most crucial part of keeping your workplace safe and comfortable during the COVID-19 outbreak. No plan that you create can be successful without them.
The following is sourced from American Industrial Hygiene Association’s backtoworksafely.org and the Center for Disease Control. Refer to these sources for more information, including guidelines on specific business types like retail and industrial.
Communicating your plan with employees is key to preventing the spread of the virus and making them feel safe and comfortable as they work. AIHA recommends:
- Adopt a communication policy that emphasizes transparency that is customized to your organization.
- Communicate to employees what is being done to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (e.g., disinfection routine, health policies for staff, and health & safety measures in place).
- Establish formal and informal routes of communication for employees to express concerns, questions, comments, and feedback.
- Ensure that supplemental information on cleaning and disinfectant products are included in organization’s hazard communication (HAZCOM) training.
- Communicate that employers may limit office hours and close-off or prohibit public access if needed.
- Employers should explore work-from-home options, staggering work shift/hours, and other flexible approaches for employees.
- If the workplace is located in a multi-tenant location, consider establishing a communication pathway with other tenants to inform of confirmed COVID-19 cases present in the building.
- Platforms for communicating with employees could include emails, texts, automated phone calls, texts, websites, and signage.
The AIHA recommends the following:
Employers should notify employees of new workplace policies and changes prior to reopening and upon resuming operations.
- Train employees on new or modified working schedules, how they can stay up to date on new scheduling requirements, and how to make requests for schedule changes if a need arises.
- Employees should receive, at minimum, awareness training on cleaning and disinfection products used in the workplace following OSHA Hazard Communication Standards. For employees who will use disinfectants and cleaners, training should also include proper use, PPE, disposal and all precautionary measures.
- Health checks and reporting requirements of individuals infected with COVID-19 should be explained to employees prior to reopening and again once operations have resumed.
- Employees should evaluate their health constantly; if they are sick, have a fever, symptoms, or someone at home is sick then they should remain home. NOTE: Employer HR Policies, HIPPA guidelines and other laws should be followed at all times.
- At minimum, employees should wash their hands upon arrival to work, after touching their face or mask or any common contact surfaces, and when leaving work.
- If employees get the urge to sneeze or cough, they should cover their nose, mouth, and mask with a towel or handkerchief.
- Employees should wash their hands and face thoroughly immediately after.
- Other Control Measures
The AIHA recommends the following:
- Prior to reopening, consider flexible work schedules, work from home options, and anticipate a hesitant and potentially uncomfortable workforce.
- Ensure that the workspace is welcoming and well-prepared for employee occupancy.
- All aspects described above should be addressed prior to reopening and on a routine basis after the returning to work.
- Ensuring employee comfort helps instill confidence in management and employer during a stressful time.
- Management and leadership are encouraged to continuously check-in with employees to ensure that all concerns are heard, understood, and addressed (see Communication section above).
- Ensure all protective measures and supplies are available prior to occupancy (e.g., demarcate floors that have access to the public, rearrange office layout to increase distance between employees, provide adequate hand washing/hand sanitizer supplies, etc.).
- Employee awareness of preparation measures and supplies contributes directly to the comfort employees can experience in the workplace.
- Employees who have symptoms when they arrive at work or become sick during the day should immediately be separated from other employees, customers, and visitors and sent home. Employees who develop symptoms outside of work should notify their supervisor and stay home.
- Sick employees should follow CDC-recommended steps. Employees should not return to work until they have met the criteria to discontinue home isolation and have consulted with a healthcare provider and state or local health department.
This Guide is not intended to provide legal advice and it should not be considered or relied upon as such. Companies are encouraged to consult an attorney for legal advice relating to reopening.