As temperatures drop and the fall season slowly approaches, so does flu season. Naturally, our bodies will begin to adjust and adapt to the changing temperatures which can create vulnerability and ultimately lead to illness. As well as the increase in likelihood to be indoors rather than outdoors. Keeping this in mind, we need to be extra precautions considering we are still living in the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus.
Knowing this information, employers should be proactive and keep employee safety on the forefront. Employers have the duty to protect employees, keep workplaces safe and free from hazards. Employees have the right to refuse unsafe work.
1. Assess the risk of your workplace. And what measures can be put into place.
Questions that you should be asking yourself:
How many people are in the building?
How often do employees come in contact with each other or with the public?
How much movement is in the workplace? Are there people walking around frequently or are most people sticking to their workstation?
How much ventilation is in your office space?
What safety initiatives do you have in place?
Demographics of your employees (depending on the age group, some people may be higher risk).
Also assess how you handled things during the first shut down and what you would do differently.
From a health and safety standpoint, this the hierarchy of making changes:
A) Eliminate – completely removing the hazard:
As much as we all wish this could be done, we cannot easily get rid of the virus.
B) Substitution – substituting the hazard:
Same thing, this cannot be done.
C) Engineering controls – isolating people from the hazard, putting barriers:
Plexiglass barriers between workstations and between customers.
D) Administrative controls – training, policies, posters:
Taping off areas or putting arrows in the workplace to direct the flow of traffic and avoid cross infection.
Making up policies on best practices in the workplace including encouraging hand washing, having people maintain at least a 2-meter distance and limiting room capacities.
Training employees on proper hygiene regimes.
Increasing cleaning levels.
E) Personal Protective Equipment
Providing masks and gloves to employees.
2. Review your policies and procedures to ensure they are up to date and cover all important areas. Distribute another copy to everyone. As well as a safety plan in case of the event that someone in the business does contract COVID-19.
COVID-19 Safety Plan.
Joint Health and Safety Committee or Health and Safety Representative.
3. Be proactive and order PPE and other cleaning supplies.
Plan ahead and stay ahead.
4. Communicate as much as possible to keep health top of mind.
Send out emails on any new updates and reminders on how to keep the workplace safe. Remind employees what they should be doing daily and reminding them to stay home if they feel the slightest bit sick. Put up posters in common rooms. Employees value transparency and appreciate knowing what is happening even if there are no changes. Uncertainty creates unnecessary stress and worry.
5. Mental Health
It has been a roller coaster so keep up the support to employees. Some people have a hard time adjusting to change. Please see mental health bubble.
Provide a work from home option, if possible.
Disinfect all frequently touched objects and surfaces at least two to three times a day. This includes handles, light switches, railings, workstations, phones, etc.
Increase distance between employees; remind them to maintain at least 2 meters distance from each other when walking, sitting, or standing.
Create room limits (i.e. only 1 person allowed in the kitchen at a time).
Reinforce to workers that they should stay home if they or one of the immediate family members is feeling ill.
Provide supplies to employees including masks, sanitizer, and disinfectant.