Easing back to a normal work schedule after COVID-19 will take time and strategy. Many different measures must be in place in order to prepare the workforce for new protocols centered around mitigating the after-effects of COVID-19. A response team may be appointed in order to make necessary decisions and changes to company policies, which may include members from legal, human resources, and IT and communications, to name a few.
To ensure and protect the safety of all workers, it is suggested to implement the following five main types of preparation plans.
A contingency plan for infectious disease and response is a proactive process used to identify and analyze the potential risks that the possible future events may pose and to formulate preventive measures for maintaining the regular operations of an organization.
It is not yet known if the pandemic COVID-19 will be an endemic disease to regularly combat in the future. Regardless, suggested best practices are to implement measures based on past experiences with other communicable diseases, such as SARS and MERS.
When developing a contingency plan, first, the identified potential risks are listed, and then appropriate preventive actions to mitigate them are determined and implemented based on the impact of the potential risk.
By ensuring safety of personnel and infrastructure, an organization will be able to avoid adversities and function efficiently without any interruptions.
Contingency plans for each manufacturing or service industry will be unique depending on their geographical location, size, weather conditions, and accessibility. In the development of a company’s specific contingency plans, regularly consult organization’s websites for additional resources, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Creating a plan for infection control begins with working with local and state health departments in order to follow current and appropriate guidelines and protocols. Establish hygiene measures which assist in illness prevention. Remind employees also about the use of, and where to obtain, necessary supplies such as hand sanitizer, tissues, and cleaning products.
Some of these directives could include the following:
- Reminding about cough and sneeze etiquette
- Hand washing and hand sanitizing
- Increasing distance between people to at least 6 feet
- Staggering shifts or schedules
- Creating a remote working or delivery program
- Encouraging appropriate additional PPE
- Increasing cleaning measures
When a plan is determined, the reliable and up-to-date guidelines for employees to follow should be communicated and posted in highly visible areas.
Policies and procedures for illness reporting during COVID-19 must be in place. Every company should evaluate their current procedures to incorporate specific rules pertaining to the coronavirus situation. These could involve procedures such as a flowchart on how each level of illness is handled, or policies in place for employees to know that their job is still secure if they need to call off due to illness. The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, provides additional guidelines about the amount of information that should be provided to the employer, as well as the rights of the employee’s health privacy as it could be related to a disability.
According to Mayer Brown in the March 09, 2020 article, Coronavirus: 10 Steps US Employers Should Take to Maintain a Safe Workplace in the Face of a Public Health Emergency, employers should also “be mindful of the interplay between sick leave laws and policies, the FMLA, ADA, HIPAA and Workers’ Compensation.”
Some of the suggested actions include policies and guidelines for:
- Teleworking and video conferencing
- Length of time for staying at home until symptom free
- Flexible, non-punitive leave to care for sick family members
More information can be found in the Ohio Department of Health’s Amended Director’s Stay at Home Order, or review similar information from your state or province.
A program and schedule for training employees on new guidelines should be in place. Many new rules could be overwhelming and confusing, and it may be required to determine whether all employees received the correct information.
Training should be instituted on topics such as:
- COVID-19 exposure, who is at risk and how – what interactions or tasks increase exposure
- Safe distancing practices both at the workplace, and outside the workplace
- What to do in case of illness, and questions and answers regarding individual concerns
- New policies for PPE, cleaning surfaces, and other topics
Training should be implemented in a manner that maintains safe distancing, such as with:
- Live or Recorded Video conferencing, using tools such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams
- On-Line Training Courses, such as THORS eLearning Solutions COVID-19 Video and Assessment
For best assurance of the receipt of the training, it is recommended that the training include some or all of the following opportunities:
- Access to someone to ask questions and receive answers
- Self-assessment prior to and after the training, to determine comprehension
- Access to the training remotely, at any time of the day, and as many times as necessary for understanding
It may be necessary to assess and track the employee’s compliance within the company. This can involve creating a compliancy assessment and implementing record keeping and tracking to ascertain whether employees have understood the new measures to follow.
An assessment tool, such as MAGNI, would be useful in order to remove the uncertainty from compliancy analysis. With MAGNI, an organization can customize their own compliancy solution by creating their own assessment with questions that reflect the standards the employees must follow.
Here’s how MAGNI works:
1- Each company determines the subject matter they wish to inform or train their own workforce on.
2- The company then follows the instructions in MAGNI’s assessment tool to create the questions for their assessment. These questions should reflect the points that are most important for the employees to know, and for the company to know if the employees understood.
3- The administrative access allows the company to see who has taken the assessment and what their score was. The tracking of score improvement during re-takes, as well as timely re-assessments to meet compliancy rules can be scheduled.
With this list of the five main plans to prepare employees for returning to work after the COVID-19 order, as well as tools and resources available, THORS eLearning Solutions and MAGNI hope to empower organizations to minimize the impact of the changes due to COVID-19 on businesses and communities, and increase the awareness and safety of everyone.
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