Workplace Safety Procedures for Returning To The Office
October 6, 2020
It can be unnerving thinking about reopening and returning to the office when COVID-19 is still a concern. Employers and employees are both concerned about the possibility of a virus outbreak occurring in the workplace. While COVID-19 is still a threat, there are steps business owners, operation specialists, and managers can take to protect the health and safety of everyone entering their facility.
Considerations Before Returning to the Office Safely
Workplace safety should always be paramount and it’s even more so during a pandemic. Before employees start returning to work, the building must be inspected to ensure it’s safe for workers to return.
If the building was closed for an extended period of time it will need to be checked for rodents and other pests that can move in. You also want to make sure that there isn’t any stagnant water in the systems. Mold is another problem that can appear when a building is left empty.
The pandemic has created additional workplace safety hazards that must be addressed before employees return. Ventilation systems must be functioning properly, and this includes both heat and air conditioning systems. It is also important to increase airflow inside your facility as much as possible.
Opening windows and doors is effective and inexpensive but it’s not always possible. Not all buildings allow for this, and in some cases, it can be a safety hazard. Adding fans throughout the building will also improve airflow, and potentially minimizing employees’ contracting the virus.
Air quality has become a major concern worldwide due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While every building should be “aired out” before having employees return to the office, many organizations are also considering Air Purification systems.
Workplace Safety Procedures for Returning to the Office
Ensuring the workplace is safe for employees will take more than improving airflow and ensuring that pests haven’t become a problem. To help streamline your safety procedures and make sure that nothing is forgotten, it’s recommended that you use a hierarchy of controls to minimize the risk of employees transmitting the disease.
Using a hierarchy of controls to minimize workplace safety hazards will help employees stay healthy. The controls can also be tailored to meet the needs of the organization. The five levels in the hierarchy build off each other and when all are in place, the organization is taking proactive measures to protect its employees.
There are five levels in the hierarchy of controls,
- Elimination – Physically remove the hazard
- Substitution – Replace the hazard
- Engineering Controls – Isolate people from the hazard
- Administrative Controls – Change the way people work
- PPE – Protect the worker with PPE
Thoroughly inspecting the building before reopening will help to eliminate the presence of the virus and using fans to boost airflow can be a substitute for a lack of open doors and windows. The engineering and administrative controls will depend on the individual business. Every organization is different.
Employees will be concerned about the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE). This could include everything from masks and face shields to sneeze guards and mobile partitions or room dividers.
How to Improve Employee Safety at Work
Using the hierarchy of controls as a template will help you improve employee safety. It also helps increase your employees’ ability to keep themselves safe as well as their belief in their own safety. We highly recommend showing your employees exactly what workplace safety precautions you have in place before they return to the office. Their peace of mind will greatly increase the buy-in for returning to the office.
Maintaining Social Distance at Work
Scientists and healthcare professionals recommend that everyone maintain social distancing, which means employees should be 6-feet apart. Chairs and tables in the break and conference rooms can be removed and rearranged to allow for social distancing.
Companies can also have visual cues in place to remind employees to not gather together. Tape lines on the floors, along with decals and posters will make it easier for everyone to remember to keep their distance. This is especially helpful in locker and meeting rooms, along with doorways and parking lots.
If there are communal supplies like bulk snacks or if everyone uses the same coffee pot, it is a good idea to replace these and other items with single-serve packets. Switching to bottled water for employees, instead of water fountains, is another step companies might want to consider.
All of these steps will make it easier for employees to remain apart, but there are times when they will be working closely together.
Protective Gear for Employee Safety
Masks should be a requirement of all employees but it’s not the only option. If employees are in an office setting, cubicle extenders can extend the panels without the need to tear down the old ones.
In larger spaces where employees often gather for meetings and breaks, there are clear PVC social distancing barriers or plexiglass mobile partitions and room dividers that can be placed around tables and even some machines.
Even though a cough or a sneeze doesn’t mean that someone is positive for COVID-19, employees still want to feel safe and protected. Sneeze guards can be placed or installed around front desks to protect employees and customers.
There are a LOT of Workplace Safety products on the market right now. Knowing which ones you might need and then finding them from a reputable dealer is the hard part. If you would like to talk with one of our experts to help walk you through the process, call 610-558-9773 or email [email protected]! You can get a full look at our Workplace Safety product lines which include:
- Plexiglass Sneeze Guards
- Cubicle Wall Extenders and Shields
- PVC Social Distancing Barriers
- Freestanding Mobile Partitions and Room Dividers
Safely Bringing Employees Back
It is possible to safely bring employees back to the workplace as long as certain procedures are followed. After ensuring the building is ready for workers to return, managers need to implement additional safety steps.
One of the most effective ways to keep employees safe and healthy is to maintain social distancing and have protective gear in place and available as needed. Our experts here at Action Services Group can walk you through what workplace safety products you need to safely reopen your facility to your staff, visitors, and customers. Contact us today by calling 610-558-9773, email [email protected] or schedule a call!
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“We received our order! The sneeze guards came 2 to a box and very well packaged. The package it arrived in, did not have any damage to it. In fact, the barrier was under bubble wrap and had corner protectors on it. Also, I must say, the pictures on the web site does not do this product justice! The guard is so clear that you don’t even know it’s there. I have recommended this product to our other 15 libraries in our county.”
– Fruitland Park Library – Jo-Ann Glendinning – Library Director