Coronavirus (COVID-19), HR Management & Compliance

How to Navigate COVID-19 Protocols to Ensure Health and Safety in the Workplace

As some employees return from working remotely and others continue to work from their facility, there are many regulations and policies that managers and supervisors need to instate to ensure employee health and safety. New federal, state, and local health and safety requirements continue to evolve as companies remain laser-focused on providing a safe working environment for all.

COVID-19
Source: Nattakorn_Maneerat / Shutterstock

From the start of COVID-19, local governments across the country drove policies in hopes of isolating communities and workforces from the virus. Since then, with the additional help of federal recommendations, each municipality approached COVID-19 protocols differently and ultimately influenced how businesses approached private health and safety compliances.

Today, it appears that the hardest-hit areas have a heightened awareness of health and safety risks, as they have experienced many COVID-19 cases firsthand. As a result, businesses in these areas have implemented safety precautions based on guidelines and policies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as local governors, mayors, and city councils—nearly any credible source that can provide direction to employers.

So, how can business leaders ensure they establish protocols that properly follow guidelines and protect employees? Here are some tips to better handle these new regulations that address short- and long-term safety goals of workers.

Closely Monitor OSHA Guidance as It Evolves

The coronavirus is an evolving situation, and recommended worker health and safety practices are expected to change as medical investigators learn more about the virus and its transmission. 

Fortunately, OSHA has been responsive in sharing resources for a variety of industries and developed an online repository for coronavirus guidance, which is updated regularly. No matter where your business is located or the leadership role you are in, be sure to bookmark the link and revisit it often in order to maximize the health and safety of your company and its people.

Comply with State and Local Regulations

Because coronavirus response rates vary at the state, county, and municipal levels, business owners should pay special attention to the different compliance considerations for each type of job and location. This requires business leaders to keep an eye on local regulations with regard to essential business status, mandated closures, phased reopenings, and other legal requirements. Failure to do so could result in fines, work stoppages, and unnecessary risk to the welfare of your employees.

However, keeping up to date with all applicable requirements and compliance considerations can be cumbersome. You can make this process less challenging by finding the appropriate government resources and signing up for newsletters that provide the latest rules and regulations.

Group Planning

In order to reduce risk, it is important to actively reach out to and learn from those who could be helpful sources of employee safety guidance. This includes your organization’s extended leadership team, employees, and member organizations such as the American Staffing Association (ASA).

Additionally, group planning can keep the various compliance standards aligned, as each party reviews its own responsibilities and addresses any aspect of shared liability related to evolving concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

Devise Your Own COVID-19 Policies

Dedicated employee health and safety programs based on government guidelines can help business owners maintain safe and compliant working environments. Such programs document adherence to regulations and give workers information on how to navigate safety challenges.

The following policies can help reduce the risk of employee exposure to the coronavirus: 

  • Provide work-from-home options if the industry allows it.
  • If working from home is not an option, require employees to wear a mask over their nose and mouth while at work, and encourage them to stay home if they feel sick. 
  • Increase deep-cleaning schedules, daily temperature checks, and health questionnaires for employees entering the building.
  • Advise employees and visitors to avoid physical contact and maintain at least 6 feet of personal space wherever possible. 
  • Promote personal hygiene such as frequent hand-washing. If employees do not have immediate access to soap and water, provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer or packets containing at least 60% alcohol.
  • Keep in-person meetings as short as possible, limit the number of workers in attendance, and use social distancing practices.
  • Clean and disinfect restrooms regularly.
  • Improve workplace ventilation and air filtration to reduce any hazardous particles that may be airborne.
  • Address any COVID-19-related issues as quickly and transparently as possible.

There is a high bar that needs to be maintained in order to keep COVID-19 from resurging throughout our communities and places of work. Although there is no universal playbook for employers to follow, given that each organization is different, the more business owners who recognize and take the threat of COVID-19 seriously by properly complying with all regulations at all levels, the safer and more productive our workforces will be.

Keeping up with state and local regulations does require much more effort, but the health and safety benefits far outweigh the costs. At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that we’re all in this together.

Thomas Saylor is the Regional Safety Manager at Aerotek.