We recognize all great efforts that employers are making to get employees back to the workplace safely. But based on our findings, we believe that there’s still much work to do in order to respond to future challenges of this pandemic.
A few weeks ago, OSHA cited multiple companies from healthcare, agriculture, food processing, meatpacking and retail industries for not taking proper safety measures to protect employees from COVID-19.
In California, inspections found that employees were not keeping physical distance, there was no compliance on respiratory protection standards, lack of physical barriers as well as lack of health screening checks for employees and visitors prior to facility entry. Companies received fines ranging from $2,025 to $51,190.
A different case was reported from Sioux Falls, where a food-producer company was cited by OSHA after concluding that there were at least 1294 employees who had contracted coronavirus at the plant and unfortunately, 4 employees died after being sick. The company received a penalty of $13,494.
Employers have the responsibility to take actions to protect employees from COVID-19 exposure. For this reason, we have prepared a short guide based on OSHA’s recommendations on how to better address COVID-19 challenges and prevent future outbreaks at your workplace.
Classify the level of risk exposure your employees are
Employers can determine what is the level of risk of employees for contracting COVID-19 at work based on the work activities, the work environment conditions, the time employees are in contact with other people, individual health conditions, among other factors. OSHA has divided job tasks in four risk exposure levels. Here are some examples:
- Lower risk: remote workers or online service providers.
- Medium risk: workers in agriculture, warehouses, offices or call centers.
- High risk: workers in transportation services, personal care and manufacturing.
- Very high risk: healthcare workers.
Provide specialized training for COVID-19
OSHA recommends a set of topics that must be covered when training employees:
- The ways that COVID-19 can be spread.
- How employees can recognize signs and symptoms associated with the disease.
- How to report suspected cases of coronavirus at work.
- The way PPE can help protect people when combined with social distancing and other safety measures as well as learn how to use and dispose of it properly.
- Education on hygienic practices, cleaning and disinfection procedures.
Identify potential risks and sources of exposure
The next step is to conduct a hazard identification and assessment in the workplace. This is basically the process of evaluating a particular situation that can cause potential harm. In the case of COVID-19 hazard, employers must:
- Identify what kind of activities and situations might cause transmissions among employees or if employees can be exposed to the virus through contaminated materials.
- Identify employees who can be at higher risk of exposure.
- Determine which activities will be necessary to implement to control contagion risk.
Based on these practices, employers will need to re-think their policies and safety procedures in order to guarantee a safe return to work and a healthy work environment. Moreover, considering technology solutions to combat specific challenges for COVID-19 can add value to workplace safety.
Kwema is an expert in mitigating the safety risks that employees face at work by providing wearables that activate an emergency protocol. Our Smart Badge for Contact Tracing & Emergency Alerts helps to prevent potential COVID-19 outbreaks at workplaces, which allows you to trace where the employee was, identify who they may have come into contact with and classify all employees into 3 groups of risk and take action to prevent spread.