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Pandemic Workplace Safety

After nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, practicing workplace safety is more important than ever. This is especially true when one considers the arrival of the second wave and the approaching winter, which will bring increased cases of influenza and common colds. It can be difficult to identify whether symptoms are COVID-19, a cold, or the flu without testing, so it is of utmost importance that all workplaces have protocols in place to protect their employees. These protocols may include the following:

  • Requiring Personal Protective Equipment (such as masks and/or gloves) be worn at all times 
  • Implementing a mandatory quarantine period if symptoms are present
  • Maintaining social distancing within the workplace whenever possible
  • Increased sanitization of high-touch surfaces
  • Reducing the number of people present in the workplace at one time
  • Using transparent barriers between employees and customers

The safest way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, of course, is to have employees work remotely or virtually. This ensures that everyone is safe because they are not in the same physical space. However, for many workplaces, remote work simply isn’t possible. While some companies are able to have all employees work from home or implement a hybrid model in which some employees work from home and some come into the office, some workplaces need to have all of their staff in the same physical location in order for them to function properly.  Examples of such workplaces include healthcare facilities (both hospitals and other forms of healthcare such as physiotherapy), stores that provide essential items (such as grocery stores and pharmacies), and factories.

Where remote work isn’t possible, the next best strategy would be social distancing. Most workplaces are able to encourage some amount of social distancing by increasing the amount of space between workstations or using arrows on the floor to direct traffic flow. However, in many physical spaces, there simply isn’t enough room for workers to remain socially distanced at all times. Some workers, including doctors and massage therapists, have to be in very close physical proximity to their patients in order to do their jobs properly. In these cases, it is important to take other safety precautions (such as protective equipment and sanitization) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

While most workplaces are vigilant about implementing safety protocols, there are some businesses that have put their employees at risk by refusing to provide them with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In this type of situation, workers have the right to refuse work they feel is unsafe. However, in some cases, employees have been fired when they refused to return to an unsafe work environment. Most of the time this leads to a legal dispute, which is troublesome for all parties involved.

A large percentage of all workplace safety complaints filed this year have been complaints related to COVID-19, demonstrating that this is becoming an important issue. The protocols in place to protect employees who come forward when the companies they work for aren’t maintaining safe workplace standards vary from state to state, meaning that many employees don’t end up getting a resolution to their complaints.

The reality is that it’s beneficial for both employees and employers to implement safety protocols. Ensuring workers’ health and safety helps to maintain low turnover rates for employers as well as build trust among employees. This increases the chance that employees will remain with a company for a longer period of time, which in turn means that the company’s workers will be better-experienced — and that less time and money will have to be spent training new workers.

In addition to the safety measures mentioned above, frequent self-screening and testing when symptoms are present are important to preventative measures. The COVID Pre-Check App allows employees to quickly and easily perform self-assessments as well as access official test results. Using the app, employers can assign statuses to employees such as ‘no acute infection’ or ‘safe to return to work’. They can also recommend that workers have a telehealth consultation with a physician if necessary. Overall, the app helps to improve the confidence of workers, employers, and customers, ensuring that everyone feels safe in the workplace.