As the COVID-19 pandemic closes non-essential businesses and forces employers to send their workforce home, essential businesses are facing their own unique set of challenges. To keep their operations up and running, essential businesses need to make sure they’re doing everything they can to keep their employees healthy.
Make sure your workforce is informed about COVID-19 symptoms and prevention measures:
- Promote and make available frequent and thorough hand washing.
- Encourage covering coughs and sneezes.
- Discourage workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible.
- Maintain & expand regular housekeeping practices, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment.
- Encourage keeping a distance of 6 ft. or more between employees.
- Minimize face-to-face contact with others.
Reinforce best practices for staying healthy during the outbreak. If you have digital signage in your facility, post COVID-19 videos like these throughout your facility to keep workers informed about how to protect themselves from the infection and what symptoms to watch for.
Adhere to OSHA guidance on preparing the workplace for COVID-19. OSHA recommends encouraging employees to stay home if they appear to have symptoms of COVID-19 ( i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath). Employees should also notify their supervisor if they or someone in their family becomes ill.
Be ready to respond to an employee becoming sick at work. If an employee starts to show symptoms during the workday, immediately separate the sick employee from others and send that person home. If a COVID-19 infection is confirmed, inform fellow employees of their possible exposure, but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Those employees who were potentially exposed should then self-monitor for symptoms.
Familiarize yourself with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Signed on March 18, 2020, by President Donald Trump, the Emergency Family Medical Leave (FML) Expansion Act temporarily expands the provisions under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act specifically to address COVID-19-related absences.
When the bill comes into power on April 1, 2020, employers with fewer than 500 employees will need to adhere to the requirements within 15 days. They will also be required to provide notice to their employees through postings and policies.
Be prepared for increased absenteeism. Your organization may experience increased absenteeism due to the illness of employees or their family members. Plan for the continuity of tasks and projects. Cross-train the teams so that the business will continue without interruption. Establishing a flexible workplace and leave policies helps mitigate the spread of infection and prevent further staffing shortages.
Help reduce employee stress. These unprecedented times create uncertainty and added stress for your employees. They may be concerned about pay, leave, safety, their own health and the health and well-being of their friends and family. You have the power to help them and deliver some peace of mind and clarity. Provide appropriate training, education, and informational material about business-essential job functions and worker health and safety, including proper hygiene practices and the use of any workplace controls (including PPE). Visual communication improves comprehension by 400%. Use visual communication means, like digital signage, to reinforce the training and prevention methods. Informed employees who feel safe at work are less likely to be unnecessarily absent.
Avoid giving medical advice. Remember that you are not your employees’ physician and avoid giving medical advice. Use trusted resources, such as coronavirus.org and https://www.who.int/ for tools and information you and your employees can rely on.