Health and safety in a place of business have always been an essential aspect of every workplace. Providing a safe and healthy environment for employees ensures the company can run properly and employees can perform their duties in a comfortable atmosphere.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has created new risks and problems for many businesses. New methods for providing a safe and healthy workplace need to be implemented to reduce the potential of transmission. Only with the right measures in place can businesses safely open in a manner that protects their employees.
Companies should have their heating and air conditioning systems checked before employees return to the workplace. These systems can accumulate dirt and debris in the vents during the shutdown and may require thorough cleaning. Proper maintenance should also be performed to ensure the systems are functioning correctly.
Ventilation is key to reducing the spread of COVID-19. A properly running HVAC system can assist with this ventilation. It is also recommended that outside air be allowed to circulate throughout the building if possible. The fresh and clean air can also help reduce the spread of the virus.
Identify Exposure Risks
A thorough hazard assessment may also be a good idea to help identify the potential for exposure. This includes identifying where people may congregate during breaks or meetings. It is also necessary to identify the areas where employees work closely together.
It’s also important to identify tools or equipment that may come into contact with people throughout the workday. Various surfaces that are touched often by employees should also be identified. Understanding each of these areas can help devise a plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19 between employees.
Enhanced Cleaning and Disinfecting
New protocols need to be implemented to thoroughly clean and disinfect the entire work area. Commonly touched surfaces need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Proper training and materials need to be provided to employees providing the cleaning.
There also need to be protocols implemented for the proper use and cleaning of tools and equipment. Remove unnecessary items that could promote transmissions, such as coffee-makers or other shared breakroom items.
Handwashing must also be part of a new policy for all employees. At arrival, before and after breaks, before and after using shared equipment, and any other time exposure may have occurred, employees should thoroughly wash or sanitize their hands. Establishing easily visible and accessed handwashing stations can help facilitate this protocol.
Implement Mask and Social Distancing Practices
At this point, most people understand the importance of wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing. It is the employer’s job to ensure that employees stick to these protocols when possible while at work.
Where possible, space workstations at a distance to prevent employees from working too close together. Spacing breaks or even work shifts can help reduce the number of people in specific areas to reduce the spread. In areas where social distancing is impossible, plexiglass barriers may provide separation between workers to limit the spread.
Employees with Symptoms
Businesses should also inform employees of the new protocols for COVID-19. There should be plans in place so that those exhibiting symptoms can stay home. Those who become ill at work should also be sent home and their area thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Protocols should also be implemented to allow employees to be tested and quarantined as necessary. If possible, allowing employees to work from home when ill could help limit the spread of COVID-19. Prohibiting or limiting visitors to the business can also help limit the potential spread.
This is a difficult time for everyone. Business owners face enormous challenges in keeping their business open while reducing the potential for spreading the virus. With the implementation of new protocols and safety measures, businesses can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and provide employees a safe and healthy work environment.