Due to COVID-19, safety trends and protocols are rapidly changing every day. This session at RIMS 2021 cited several considerations that organizations should have on their radar as employees begin to return to workplaces across the nation.
- Michael Lorms, Risk Services Manager, Sedgwick
- Joseph Whitlock, Senior Advisor, Industrial Hygiene, EFI Global
COVID-19 safety training entails much more than providing masks and hand sanitizing stations. Communication is key. Even during scary and stressful conditions, organizations should focus on communicating what they do know at the time and make everyone aware that circumstances may change. It is helpful to provide a source where workers can go after information is distributed for follow-up questions or clarification.
Communication has gone hand-in-hand with environmental safety. A good example of this is the advance warning signage that you see at retail locations. Visual cues, such as a simply X on the floor indicating where to stand, have been effective. We are seeing floorplan changes to accommodate high-density areas and traffic flow – and that might not change after COVID. Controls are being put into place for how people enter areas and heavy focus is being put on ventilation. Basic methods to alleviate the COVID-19 concern are good practices to continue throughout the year, especially during times like flu season. There is a safety component to these measures, but they also give employees peace of mind.
Employee Practice Changes
Administrative controls are being put into place to return employees to the office. Companies are using strategies like phased or staggered roll-ins to bring employees back. Effective return-to-work programs have protocols around screening, temperature checks and quarantining if someone at home tests positive for COVID-19. Organizations do not want to see another spike in infections and many companies are still including these protocols as the workforce returns to their facilities. Document this program now. There will be another biological event in the future, so keep this disease protocol in place as a proactive measure. Be diligent in how you protect your best asset – your employees.
Organizations that proactively invested in things like UV protection and ionizers, and have changed engineering controls like extra cleaning on the weekend and rescheduling at-risk clients for appointments on certain days, have seen an enormous decrease in absenteeism. Some proactive organizations have implemented these protocols during cold and flu season – far before COVID-19. In one case, a dentist office not only decreased absenteeism, but also increased their client base due to the existence of these measures. The ROI of these long-term investments have been phenomenal.