As businesses start moving toward reopening physical offices again, it's essential they provide a safe, secure environment and instill confidence in employees returning to work. To help businesses return safely, the CDC has issued a set of guidelines to help in developing a safe and healthy back to work strategy.
CDC Guidelines to Ensure a Safe Workplace
With concerns over COVID-19, it's not always easy for employees to adjust to an office with new rules and regulations. Business leaders should effectively communicate any changes in real time and explain how important it is to follow regulations for the safety and security of all employees. The CDC has provided a set of Back To Doing guidelines to address the following:
1. Prevent and Reduce Transmission Among Employees
Based on the severity of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the CDC makes regular updates to the public regarding proper guidelines to follow, which can be viewed in real time here. Companies should make this info easily available to all employees. In doing so, employees can help reduce transmission in and around the workplace.
Properly Handle an Employee Testing Positive
As soon as an employee is known to have a positive case of the Coronavirus, they should immediately return home, if not already, and quarantine. The employee should inform their manager right away and follow the CDC-suggested steps. Similarly, the CDC recommends staying home if someone in the immediate household has tested positive.
It is not required for the company to shut down the entire workplace if an employee contracts the Coronavirus. Locate the infected employee's workplace and cleanse and disinfect the area. Follow the specified CDC disinfection guidelines. It's also important to find employees who were in contact with the infected employee, inform those employees, and guide them according to the Public Health Recommendations.
Perform Daily Employee Health Checks
Before employees enter the premises, it's highly recommended to perform a health screening. This process should be as contactless as possible and social distancing regulations should be followed at all times. Businesses can use hands-free thermometers or thermal imaging cameras for health screening of temperatures. It's important to also continuously monitor employee movement within the office to ensure employees follow PPE and social distancing protocols.
If there is more than one building to the workplace, health screening stations should be placed in all entrances. Companies should make sure that the health data of the employee is not shared with the rest of the staff to maintain privacy and avoid discrimination.
Locate High-Risk Areas for COVID-19 Spread
It is the responsibility of the employer to uncover areas where the chances of transmission of COVID-19 is high. Perform a complete risk assessment to ascertain any problem areas and determine what steps can be taken to lessen the risk.
- Limit access to that area
- Add appropriate safety measures and PPE
- Provide training to employees who need to access that area
Keep employees updated about policies and practices. Make sure employees sanitize their objects and workstations before starting work and frequently throughout the day. If employees are commuting to work via public transportation, share the CDC public transformation guidelines.
2. Enable Healthy Business Operations
A role dedicated to monitoring and managing business operations is essential for ensuring healthy business operations during a pandemic crisis. Here are the CDC recommendations to help facilitate:
Provide Flexible Policies and Best Practices
For hassle-free business operations, make policies flexible and secure, and oriented toward employee safety. If any employee or their family is sick, make sure the policies support employees to work from home or provide emergency sick leave.
Communicate Workplace Policies
The job of employers does not end with just drafting effective policies, but to communicate how to effectively use these policies for the employees' benefit. In this process, train some employees who can assist others regarding policies and health and safety procedures. Companies can deploy a number of technology solutions, like healthcare chatbots, to make information available 24/7 or for easy reporting of illness.
3. Provide a Healthy Work Environment
Maintaining a healthy work environment is critical and can often be challenging. To protect employees in the work environment, the CDC provides a hierarchy of controls based on the risk exposure:
Enhance Building Engineering Controls
The CDC suggests using ventilation systems for enhancing building engineering controls.
- Improve ventilation and ensure adequate indoor air quality
- Deactivate demand-controlled ventilation
- Open outdoor ventilation to reduce air recirculation
Refer to Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic for more information.
Guide Guests and Customers
The workplace is not only occupied by employees, but also outside visitors as well. Be sure to provide proper guidelines to guests and customers visiting the workplace. Prompt them to use sanitizers, gloves and masks, and to avoid handshakes and close contact.
Perform Routine Cleaning
On regular time intervals, perform cleaning and disinfecting activities as per CDC guidelines. Encourage employees to clean their workstations and their accessories.
Develop Solid Travel Guidelines
While most in-person business meetings can be eliminated and replaced with virtual meetings, business travel for essential meetings is still occurring. However, with the considerations of the rapid rapid spread of COVID-19, traveling can be very risky. It is suggested to minimize any nonessential traveling and if traveling is required, follow the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices.