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Business As Unusual: Keeping Employees Safe
May 5, 2020
Business As Unusual: Keeping Employees Safe

Part 2: What can you do to keep employees safe once back at work?

Provincial governments are preparing plans to re-open workplaces. However, it is clear that we won’t be returning to business as usual. From an HR perspective, there are workforce challenges and health and safety considerations that you should be thinking through prior to the re-opening of your business. Essential HR is bringing you a 5-part series examining all things people related that you should start planning for as your business re-opens its physical workspaces.   

Once workplaces are allowed to re-open, you will need to implement additional health measures to prevent the risk of COVID-19 entering and spreading through your workplaces. Your additional health and safety measures will change as risk decreases/increases. Layout out plans in your phase framework.  Consult this website for industry-specific health and safety guidelines and consider implementing the following measures:

  • Visitor policy – Limit visitors to essential circumstances. Conduct as much business as possible by phone or through video chat. Post your policy on external doors to prevent solicitors from dropping. Consider using a health screen such as this one for visitors that you do allow to enter the building.

Download Visitor Questionnaire

  • Workspace modifications – Make changes to your physical workspace to promote physical distancing by doing the following:
    • Reducing the density of workstations in one area. For example, make only certain workstations available or spread desks further apart. Some employees may need to continue to work from home or alternate days working from home to make this work.
    • Modify open floor plans by adding partitions to prevent the spread of germs.
    • Do not allow employees to share tools/workstations or require sanitization before and after the use of shared equipment.
  • Common Areas – Make temporary changes to your public spaces such as:
    • Closing common areas, break rooms, board rooms or implement maximum capacities that would account for physical distancing. Alternatively, remove chairs from common spaces so that people practice physical distancing. Stagger lunch breaks do decrease the volume of people in one area.
    • Modify high-touch surfaces. For example, replace latch doors knobs with push options. Use voice-activated technology or sensor technology to reduce touchpoints.
    • Add tape to carpets to show appropriate distancing in areas where line ups would occur (for example, in the reception area).
    • Make hallways one way.
    • Remove shared cups/cutlery/dishes etc. from common spaces. If these are a necessity, provide an environmentally friendly disposable option.
    • Put vending machines and office snack or beverage programs out of order.
    • Use signage to remind employees, customers and visitors of your health and safety best practices (wash hands regularly, physical distancing, stay at home if you feel sick etc.) Download this sign or download industry-specific information and signs at this Government of Ontario website.
  • Crowd Control – Create a capacity limit for your workplace. Alternate work from home/work from the office schedules or stagger shifts to be compliant with the capacity limits. 
  • COVID-19 Screening - Consider having employees complete daily questionnaires to screen and catch COVID-19 symptoms to reduce exposure within your workplace. Take into consideration the following questions
    • Will your health screening include temperature screening? Who will conduct the temperature screening? What are the health risks to the screeners? What are the privacy concerns?
    • How will the data be stored and destroyed?
    • What will the procedure be if an employee reports symptoms of COVID-19?  .
    • These same questions regarding screening should be asked about the protocols for vendors and visitors.
  • Take Attendance – If you know who was in the building you will be able to better track exposure if there is a COVID-19 case in your workplace.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – In addition to the PPE that you regularly require, what additional PPE will you require?
    • Masks – will they be mandatory? Will you provide them or reimburse them? What will you do if employees have reasonable grounds to refuse to wear a mask such as medical or religious grounds?
    • Gloves – are gloves necessary for positions that interact with the public?
    • Other PPE – is additional PPE required for higher risk positions?
    • Commuters – require employees who use public transit to get to work to take extra precautions such as hand sanitizing upon arrival. Encourage the use of masks and gloves on public transit.
    • Employees in the field – think about how you will protect employees who work in the field or go into customer’s homes. Provide them with sanitizing products or PPE that they must use. Require customers to have COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place before allowing your employees to enter their workplace. Require customers to complete COVID-19 screening questionnaires before employees will enter their homes.  
  • Increase Cleaning – Speak with your cleaning service or in-house facility members who perform cleaning duties to increase your cleaning schedule or common spaces and high touch point areas such as the lobby, entrance doors, and elevators. Ensure increased cleaning procedures are followed by:
    • Making additional disinfecting products and hand sanitizer available to employees and in common areas. Health Canada put out a list of products suitable for killing the virus here.
    • Requiring sanitization procedures for any equipment that is brought back into the office after employees have been working from home.
    • Planning ahead to procure sufficient amounts of hand sanitizer and cleaning products.
    • Creating a schedule for increased regular cleanings as well as deep cleans.
    • Reviewing or renegotiating contracts with your cleaning service to ensure that your new cleaning expectations can be met.

For more safety best practices regarding physical workspaces, see our blog "Reducing Risk Within Your Workspace.

Stay tuned for all 5 parts of our "Business As Unusual" series!

Part 1: How do Employees Come Back?
Part 2: Keeping Employee’s Safe Upon Return
Part 3: There will be Childcare Problems

Part 4: Navigating Employee Exposure Concerns
Part 5: Training Through a Pandemic

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