On-site Work Health and Safety Playbook Needs to be Communicated Clearly

Recruiting and mobility management have never been the same since the pandemic. Work policies have become more fluid and flexible. Many are always on their toes trying to keep up with new protocols, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance.

If planning for the next normal at work, what’s your own policy as a mobility manager or employer for your assignees? How do you keep your workforce safe and healthy? Kaiser Permanente, a leading health care provider, came up with its own playbook for employers bringing back workers on-site safely, with some caveat that it be used for informational purposes only.  

It’s worth noting that the health care provider suggests instituting daily health checks and screenings, communicating with employees, and training them for the following:

Contract tracing — If an employee becomes infected with COVID-19, contract tracing enables you to alert other employees that they’ve been exposed and to quarantine to stop further spread of the virus.

Sick-day policies and procedures — Ensure sick-day policies aren’t punitive and actively communicate expectations for employees to stay home at the first signs of sickness 

Isolation protocol — Ensure you have a plan to identify and respond when someone is sick. OSHA recommends educating employees about policies and procedures for isolation of sick people when appropriate, including designated isolation rooms.

It’s not hard to implement for leading tech companies with abundant resources but how would smaller companies do the same?

Practicing an abundance of caution will be helpful. Strategies for communicating could include a campaign focused on the following:

  • The importance of wearing a mask correctly
  • The importance of getting a flu shot
  • Hand hygiene to stop the spread of COBID-19 and other illnesses
  • The need for must-do action if an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19
  • A centralized website to house up-to-date workplace procedures and policies, using visuals whenever possible
  • Make someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19 feel welcome to come back to the workplace after recovering from it

Establishing risk levels is vital and should be categorized accordingly

Very high: Consider the levels of employee health risk when planning how — and when — employees should be working on site. Health care workers performing aerosol-generated procedures or handling specimens from potentially infectious patients. 

Medium to medium high: Workers in close contact with the public, such as health care delivery, law enforcement, fire and medical transport. Roles in contact with the public, such as schools, retail, grocery and manufacturing

Low: Jobs that require minimal contact with others, such as office work and remote work

Promoting employee prevention and safety guidelines in the workplace must also include, but aren’t limited to, the following recommendations from the CDC pertaining to employee sanitation behaviors:

  • Institute universal masking
  • Provide hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol in multiple locations
  • Promote frequent hand-washing
  • Place boxes of tissues throughout the workplace.
  • Ensure appropriate disposal of all waste, with clearly labeled receptacles readily available
  • Encourage respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or elbow
  • Provide as much space between workstations as possible (at least 6 feet, about 2 arms lengths from person to person). Note that studies show an increase in COVID-19 transmission through air conditioning in crowded, poorly ventilated environments
  • Provide large gathering and limit other gatherings to 10 people or fewer
  • Identify and provide the type of personal protective equipment needed in your workplace
  • Encourage employees to get their annual flu shot

Keeping high-touch areas safe and sanitary

What probably concerns people the most other than each other are the high-touch areas. These include the refrigerator, sinks, door and cabinet handles, microwave buttons, shared utensils, the coffee pot, copiers, phone and of course, the office computer, if they change users.

It’s important to identify these areas and how to limit exposure to them by doing the following:

  • Clean and disinfect high touch areas frequently 
  • Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others, and between workstations. Increasing ventilation, air circulation and worksite cleaning are imperative.
  • Add visual cues to reinforce physical distancing
  • Install physical barriers where distancing is difficult
  • Ensure all trash cans have lids and are touch-free
  • Supply extra face masks, tissues, and hand sanitizer in prominent places

Reinforcing communications points and modifying tactics will be necessary, along with learning how to modify or add benefits to support employees required to work in at-risk environments. This includes making benefits available to both clinical and nonclinical employees actively working at facilities or in other patient care environments.

These are just a few of the workplace safety checklists that companies can implement. The challenge for companies and global mobility managers handling talents is how to spread the right information, so they will be comfortable coming back to work.