Workplace Reopening Guidelines
July 27, 2021 by Keely Knopp
From the July Mercy Occupational Medicine eNewsletter
As more employers return to a fully staffed, pre-pandemic workforce, there are guidelines that may be helpful as companies fully open to their employees and the public. And with a new surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the U.S., it’s as important as ever that companies take precautions to keep their employees and customer base as safe as possible. Below are some guidelines designed to help companies maintain a safe environment for their workforce and customers.
1. Health Monitoring
Monitoring your employees’ health and wellness is a critical step in the return to normal business operations. Consider policies that will help employees remain home during illness, like paid time off or remote work duties, if possible. There should be systems in place to detect and monitor employee health concerns.
Temperature monitoring stations, masking protocols, proper respiratory etiquette, regular sanitation and a robust reporting system are all requisite precautions in a post-COVID workplace. Vaccinations should be offered to workers, and providing paid time off or onsite vaccinations is a great way to increase vaccine rates among your staff.
2. Safety Refreshers
OSHA recommends employers create a refresher program for returning workers on new or overhauled safety and health procedures. It should focus on protocols that may have been overlooked or deferred during a partial or full shutdown, while also incorporating more common safety policies that employees may have forgotten while away. Machine operating procedures, safety requirements, preparation guidelines, equipment use, etc., should all be covered in a refresher program. Some organizations may also need to cover workplace exposure or hazard concerns, including those that may have cropped up during the shutdown because of neglect or inactivity.
OSHA recommends employers revisit and update standard operating procedures, as exposure to hazards may increase during startup and shutdown periods. It is important for employers to review and address safety as part of their overall reopening efforts.
3. Physical Distancing and Limited Capacity
OSHA recommends limiting capacity for both workers and customers to accommodate for physical distancing, where possible. This remains one of the best ways to prevent or mitigate the spread of the virus. Signage reminding workers, customers, and visitors to maintain at least six feet between one another is a great way to keep this in mind.
4. Open Communication
Ensure workers understand their right to a safe and healthy work environment, and be sure they know who to contact with questions or concerns about workplace safety. By law, employees have the right to raise concerns about health and safety conditions without fear of retaliation. Companies should maintain proper communication channels so employees can report health-related concerns or suggestions in a timely manner.
5. Proper Planning
Proper planning will be key to a successful reopening of any business. Employees may feel added stress, fatigue or mental conditions like depression as a result of the ongoing pandemic and returning to the workplace. Employers should plan for these additional workplace concerns, allowing employees additional time or resources to fully acclimate to normal operations.
Employers should be mindful and empathetic, but most importantly, there should be clear guidelines in place to help employees as they return to work. OSHA suggests employers carefully plan for worker safety and acclimation before attempting to increase production to pre-pandemic levels.
These guidelines should be used as part of a comprehensive plan by employers to fully reopen their businesses. Employers should carefully evaluate their reopening procedures based on their specific situations and assessment of risk in their workplace. This will ensure that employees (and customers) are as safe as possible when returning to a place of business.
Source: OSHA.gov, CDC.gov