If you are an employer, you have a legal obligation under OSHA to provide a safe workplace for your employees—a duty undoubtedly made more complex in the era of COVID-19. If your physical place of business remains open, there are several things you can do to keep your workplace as safe as possible for you and your employees—and therefore, for everyone.
If you’re an employer in charge of protecting a workplace environment in any capacity:
1. Post signs around your workplace to:
Remind all employees, visitors, and patrons to wash their hands upon entry
Remind employees to wash their hands after handling or removing any personal protective equipment like masks and gloves
Train people on how to properly wash their hands (post near hand washing stations)
2. Provide accurate information to employees regarding how to stop the spread of germs: Use concrete examples that are specific to your workplace, and involve employees in discussions on how to improve safety measures (perhaps at daily huddles or via emails or group calls). Encourage employees to spot and report potential COVID-19 safety issues.
3. Develop and clearly articulate your company’s emergency communication plan in case someone is exposed to COVID-19 and exposes co-workers as well.
Ensure either hand washing areas or antibacterial products (containing at least 60% alcohol) are within reach of all work areas. The latest information we have is that soap is actually more effective than hand sanitizer if you wash for 20 seconds, and that hand sanitizer should be used only if you don’t have access to water and a sink.
Maintain regular housekeeping practices to ensure high-contact surfaces (elevator buttons, doorknobs, railings, handles, etc.) are routinely disinfected.
Ensure your work area is properly ventilated.
Assess whether your workplace can increase physical distance between employees. Assume that if your state and local health authorities are not currenting adopting social distancing directives, they may be likely to issue such directives soon.
Limit contact between employees (and further germ spreading) by implementing a temporary ban on shared food in break rooms and on drinking fountain use. Stagger water coolers so that groups of employees don’t congregate by them. Move chairs to 6 feet apart for meeting rooms.
This is a partial list of recommended tips. Review both the OSHA and CDC recommendations for further guidance. And please don’t hesitate to email me with your safety and risk management questions at email@example.com.
About the author
Head of Safety & Loss Control
As Head of Safety & Loss Control, Nicole builds and implements programs to mitigate risks for Newfront clients. Prior to joining Newfront, she spent 11 years as a civil litigator and prosecutor focusing on safety and protecting the community. She was successful in more than 50 jury trials and grand juries, ranging from embezzlement and fraud to wiretap gang cases.
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