Afraid of Going Back to Work? Do This to Minimize Coronavirus Risk for Workers and Clients
As California is moving forward reopening businesses and services, people are scared to return to work amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
California is now on Phase 2, but some counties have the option to shift to Phase 3 – out of 4 – of the reopening plan, which means allowing high-risk workplaces to return to service. This is good news for businesses that remained closed during the stay at home order, like hair salons, in-person shopping, schools, day camps, bars, gyms, campgrounds, and professional sports.
However, with more than 161,000 confirmed cases and more than 5,200 deaths so far statewide, reopening should not be taken lightly. Acting carelessly can lead to a spike in Covid-19 cases as workers and clients will start sharing more and more spaces. Thus, Workers’ Compensation cases could increase as well if employees get infected while on duty.
We have prepared a list of 5 things a business should do to keep workers and customers safe against Covid-19. Although there is industry-specific guidance and reopening will vary from county to county, these are general measures that businesses statewide can implement, according to the Government of California, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
For industry-specific guidance see the “Statewide industry guidance to reduce risk” at https://covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/.
1. Develop a protection and response plan
Take into consideration the health authorities’ recommendations to develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan. It should address different risk and hazard levels depending on the worksite and job tasks. Spread information about protocols amongst the staff.
Maintain regular cleaning practices of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment — such as door handles, desks, phones, light switches, and faucets. Use cleaning chemicals approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against SARS-Cov-2 because they are expected to be effective against the virus. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use them.
Designate specific isolation rooms where you can move potentially infectious people until they can be safely removed from the worksite. It should be a location away from workers, customers, and visitors. An area with closable doors may serve this purpose. Have a procedure for transporting people home or to a health care facility.
Work with insurance companies and health agencies to provide information to workers and clients about medical care in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak. Develop policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following a positive test. Collaborate with employees and unions to effectively spread this information.
2. Involve employees and train them
Encourage employees to implement good hygiene and infection control practices, including frequent and thorough hand washing. Provide workers, visitors, and clients a place to wash their hands and alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60% alcohol. Consider scheduling handwashing breaks.
Monitor your staff daily for symptoms using a questionnaire or checklist and perform temperature screenings of all employees before entering the facility. Do not allow symptomatic people to physically return to work until cleared by a medical provider. If possible, provide multiple screening entries into the building.
Train employees on how to limit the spread of Covid-19. Show them how to screen themselves for symptoms and when to stay home. Remember the symptoms that may indicate you are infected with Covid-19: fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.
The CDC provides a self-checker in the following site: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html.
3. Establish physical distancing measures and controls
To increase physical distancing and reduce the number of employees in a facility, companies can establish flexible worksites, staggered shifts, and alternating days. If feasible, replace face-to-face meetings with virtual communications and implement telework.
Toward clients, consider opening a drive-through window, erecting partitions, installing plastic sneeze guards, and marking floors to guide spacing at least 6 feet apart. If you cannot eliminate face-to-face contact, such as retailing companies, consider assigning higher risk employees to work tasks that allow them to maintain a 6-foot distance from others.
Companies can also install high-efficiency air filters and increase ventilation rates.
4. Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
According to the CDC, employers are obligated to provide their employees with PPE needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs. The type of PPE will depend on the risk of being infected and job tasks that may lead to exposure.
The PPE includes respiratory protection, face shields, masks, gloves, and goggles. They should be consistently and properly worn, and regularly inspected and replaced.
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public spaces where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. These are not appropriate substitutes in workplaces where masks or respirators are recommended or required.
5. Be flexible
These are times of uncertainty and stress. People need to know that employers care about them and understand emergencies can happen. Maintain flexible policies for allowing employees to stay home if they feel sick or if they care for a sick family member.
Employers should not require employees to provide a note from their health care provider or a Covid-19 test result to validate their illness or qualify for sick leave. Medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation promptly. Allow them to inform their supervisors or employee health services when there are conditions that put them at higher risk for diseases.
Be aware of workers’ concerns about pay, leave, safety, health, and other issues that may arise during infectious disease outbreaks. Provide everyone appropriate information about policies, plans, protocols, and worker health and safety. According to OSHA, informed workers who feel safe at work are less likely to be unnecessarily absent.
If you or any person you know got infected with Covid-19 while working, you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. You can call today at 888-740-6434 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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