With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting everyday business operations, business owners and managers must do all in their power to ensure worker health and workplace safety. They also need to ensure that all of their business operations are adequately and efficiently performed and with minimal disruption. Once these steps are taken, frontline workers - the hardworking people supporting retail, transportation, grocery, logistics, healthcare, warehouse, and other industries - can continue to perform to the best of their abilities.
However, even when all precautions are taken, frontline workers still work long and stressful hours. Unfortunately, fatigue is unavoidable, and it is typically followed by burnout, or worse, injury. As businesses come under pressure from the pandemic, quality assurance and inspections become crucial to ensure that personal protection equipment (PPE), work tools, workplace, and anything in between meet required standards.
Here is how to organize effective measures necessary to ensure the safety of frontline workers:
1. Develop a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan
If one doesn't already exist, develop a preparedness and response plan to guide protective actions against coronavirus. The plan should address the levels of risk associated with a specific worksite and job tasks workers perform at those worksites. This can include:
- Where, how, and to what sources of virus might workers be exposed, including customers and coworkers, sick individuals, healthcare workers who had unprotected exposures to people with COVID-19, etc.;
- Risk factors at home and in the community;
- Workers' individual risk factors such as older age, chronic illnesses, pregnancy, etc.;
- Necessary controls for addressing those risks.
2. Implementing Basic Infection Prevention Measures
All employees should implement proper hygiene and infection control practices, such as:
- Frequent and thorough hand washing, including providing everyone with a place and equipment to wash their hands.
- Encouraging employees to stay home if they feel sick;
- Encouraging wearing masks and following respiratory etiquette (including covering coughs and sneezes);
- Providing everyone with enough tissues and trash receptacles;
- Establishing practices such as flexible worksites and flexible working hours, if possible, to increase the physical distance between employees;
- Discouraging employees from using other employees' phones, desks, offices, work tools, or equipment;
- Maintaining regular housekeeping practices such as regular cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, equipment, and other workplace elements.
3. Providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When correctly used, PPE can help prevent some exposures. PPE includes gloves, goggles, face masks, face shields, and respiratory protection when needed. All types of PPE should be selected based on the potential hazard to the employee, properly fitted and worn, regularly inspected, maintained and replaced, if necessary, and properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of.
It is imperative to ensure that frontline workers stay healthy and injury-free while keeping up with the massive surge in demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to all new and old worksite challenges, frontline workers are also at risk of contracting coronavirus. That is why businesses had to implement safety procedures to minimize exposure by using masks, gloves, social distancing, frequent disinfecting, acrylic dividers, and other procedures. The Checker Back-to-Work Checklist is an excellent start.