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Return to Workplace Webinar: Establish a Safe Physical Environment

As businesses across the nation prepare to reopen over the next few months, creating a return-to-workplace plan that prioritizes employee health amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority. To support our clients and peers as they prepare to transition into this next phase of work, ABD is hosting a webinar series focused on returning to the workplace safely.

On Thursday, May 28, we hosted our third return-to-workplace webinar, Establish a Safe Physical Environment. The discussion was moderated by Chana Anderson, CCP, PHRca, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Senior Vice President and Practice Leader of ABDs HR Services Practice, and featured a panel of experts in workplace safety and hygiene. The group included Felicia Axtell, CSM, Safety Manager for The Family Coppola, Jeffrey Gagnon, Executive Managing Director, West Region, at Cushman & Wakefield, and Scott Rhymes, ARM, CIH, CSP, REHS, VP of Risk Control and Senior Loss Consultant for The ABD Team.

The panel discussed best practices for creating a safe work environment for employees and clients and advised how to best manage the unprecedented risks created by the novel coronavirus.

Here are some of their key takeaways for employers as you plan to reopen:

  • Find your companys sources of truth start with CDC and then dive deeper with industry-specific resources.
  • Check all systems. Especially within the hospitality industry, there is a risk of Legionnaires Disease, which comes from water with reduced chlorine levels sitting stagnant in pipes; critical to flush pipes and let water run for at least five minutes.
  • Check all fire exits. Both from the inside and outside (many have become blocked on the outside during shutdown)
  • Know that using barriers and cues in the physical work environment does not have to be expensive. Companies are being creative with clear shower curtains, thin sheets of plexiglass and making their own signage. Tape on floors, walls, and tables also works.
  • Clearly label and include the safety pictogram on all cleaning supplies. Many buy cleaning products in bulk and transfer to smaller containers there is a need to label and include the safety pictogram on the secondary containers; also need to have Safety Data Sheets for each cleaning chemical
  • CDC provides a list and recently released a new search tool to look up and find different types of disinfectants for your facility based on active ingredients, contact time and type of site.
  • CDC guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting your facility.

Recommendations for preparing the building:

Important elements for employers to focus on:

  • Communicate, communicate and did we mention communicate share with employees not just the what but the why to drive ownership and accountability.
  • Think about traffic flow and adapt i.e. always go clockwise, remove the option of hot-desking, remove seats (completely remove from the premises) that you do not want used, and think about bottlenecks such as lunchtime and develop plans to limit.
  • Set and communicate new maximum occupancy levels for any shared spaces such as lunchrooms, coffee stations, meeting rooms, etc.

For those who were not able to join us, or if you would like to revisit, click here for the webinar audio.

Visit the ABD COVID-19 Portal to register for upcoming webinars in our Moving Forward Together: Return to Workplace Series.

  • 6/4 Prepare for a Positive Employee Experience

The ABD Team

About the author

The ABD Team

ABD Insurance and Financial Services provides risk management, insurance brokerage, human resources, and retirement consulting services. Our advisors offer guidance and craft innovative solutions to help address risk for clients of varying sizes, growth stages, and industries.


The information provided is of a general nature and an educational resource. It is not intended to provide advice or address the situation of any particular individual or entity. Any recipient shall be responsible for the use to which it puts this document. Newfront shall have no liability for the information provided. While care has been taken to produce this document, Newfront does not warrant, represent or guarantee the completeness, accuracy, adequacy, or fitness with respect to the information contained in this document. The information provided does not reflect new circumstances, or additional regulatory and legal changes. The issues addressed may have legal, financial, and health implications, and we recommend you speak to your legal, financial, and health advisors before acting on any of the information provided.

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