Safety Measures for Returning to Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The adverse impacts of COVID-19 have disturbed all structures in the world from healthcare and economics to politics and religion. The extent of the damage of the outbreak will depend on the strategies of a country to contain and eliminate the virus. To reduce shocks and avoid economic collapse, countries have been implementing policies to mitigate the consequences of the virus and to recover.

Every business across the globe regardless of its type, size, and industry has felt the grave impacts of the pandemic first-hand. As the virus spreads from a country to another, lockdowns were enforced, forcing public transportation to cease operations and offices to close temporarily. The strategy pressured businesses to adopt a work-from-home setup, resulting in utilizing digital solutions to stay relevant and productive despite employees not being in a traditional work environment.

Globally, the number of confirmed cases has reached millions, but on the bright side, several countries are now easing up their lockdown policies due to their success in containing the virus, even allowing businesses to reopen cautiously. Nevertheless, health and economic experts are planning different approaches to avoid a potential second wave as business operations gradually return to normal. The next few weeks will be critical to test the strength and ability of a country to protect its people and economy.

As businesses return to normal, the enforcement of safe work practices should be followed to limit exposure to COVID-19. Assessing the risks and adhering to global prevention and control measures are fundamental.

To put safety at the forefront of the resumption of business operations, practice the guidelines below.

Personal hygiene

The best form of protection professionals can adopt are effective hygiene habits.

    • Clean hands protect against infection. To avoid getting infected and spreading the virus, regularly washing hands is imperative. Wash with soap and water and scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. While the best way to get rid of germs is to wash hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. The solution should contain at least 60% alcohol. Sanitizers do not get rid of all types of germs and are not effective when hands are visibly greasy or dirty.
    • Wearing a mask can reduce catching and spreading the coronavirus. If a person is healthy, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends wearing a mask only if he or she is taking care of a person with COVID-19. Nevertheless, since the virus can be anywhere, it is advisable to wear a mask to minimize the risk of getting infected. Before putting on a mask, one should clean hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based handrub. Properly wearing and discarding a mask should be observed.

Safety in the workplace

Reopening of workplaces entails strengthening regulations governing physical distancing and employee gatherings.

    • Establish entrance and exit policies in the workplace, since people entering the workplace are at significant exposure to the coronavirus and at greater risk of becoming infected. Know the safety measures the building implements, such as the limit of people who can use an elevator at a single time, its sanitation procedures, and the rules to follow when entering and exiting the facility. In addition, conducting health and safety checks at entry and throughout the day should be done strictly. If capable, employers should provide their employees transportation alternatives as public transportation is inadvisable.
    • Employees should limit — if not possible to eliminate — physical contact with colleagues. Desks should be at least two meters apart and not face-to-face. Setting a limit on the number of people at a work area or room could affect the maximum number of people a workplace can accommodate; thus, assessment and executing effective staff accommodation policies, including remodeling physical setup, are crucial. The Human Resource department of a company could segment employees according to their roles and activities. Shift and remote work may be considered, as large volumes of employees in a shared workplace present an irreversible risk of spreading and contracting the virus.  In terms of face-to-face meetings, the number of people involved should not exceed four. Otherwise, video conferencing is the best alternative.
    • Reduce the use of physical documents. While there is no WHO-approved timeline as to the duration a COVID-19 virus survives on surfaces, according to studies on coronaviruses, a coronavirus can live on surfaces for a few hours up to several days depending on varied conditions. One of the best practices to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is to ditch the use of paper and go digital. There are several companies that provide secure, cloud-based document management solutions. One of the best options in the digital market today is PDFRun, a comprehensive PDF editor software and e-signature solutions provider.
    • Refrain from using company crockery and cutlery. Employees should bring their own plates, drinking glasses, and utensils. Doing so is not only sanitary but also prevents a possible spread of the coronavirus.
    • Limit engaging with third-parties. For deliveries and collections, consider establishing safety protocols — hygiene requirements, travel suggestions, and bypassing any physical contact. Delivery workers may be allowed to use office facilities, such as toilets and cafeteria, given that they follow safety precautions. If possible, pick up any delivery outside the office premises. For a transaction that requires close contact, keep it to less than a few minutes.

As business operations resume, the health and safety of employees are paramount. Thus, business leaders are not only tasked to rebuild their companies but also workplace morale, as employees who have been away from their workplaces for weeks or months could feel unsettled. A company could regularly solicit employee feedback after a few days or weeks after its resumption of operations. In addition, sharing its success in mitigating risks and protecting employees can assure employees of their safety.

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