The National Safety Council, a nonprofit organization established by Congress in 1913, recently formed the “SAFER task force” (Safe Actions For Employee Returns) which identified the 10 universal actions employers must consider for healthy buildings before reopening after coronavirus shutdown, and released a series of playbooks with in-depth recommendations for doing so safely.
“Reopening businesses and returning employees to traditional work environments post-quarantine will be the most nuanced and complex actions American employers will undertake in the coming months,” SAFER says.
- Phasing – Create a phased transition to return to work aligned with risk and exposure levels.
- Sanitize – Before employees return, disinfect the workplace and make any physical alterations needed for physical distancing.
- Screenings – Develop a health status screening process for all employees.
- Hygiene – Create a plan to handle sick employees, and encourage safe behaviors for good hygiene and infection control.
- Tracing – Follow proper contact tracing steps if workers get sick to curb the spread of COVID-19.
- Mental Health – Commit to supporting the mental and emotional health of your workers by sharing support resources and policies.
- Training – Train leaders and supervisors not only on the fundamentals of safety such as risk assessment and hazard recognition, but also on the impacts of COVID-19 on mental health and wellbeing, as employees will feel the effects of the pandemic long after it is over.
- Engagement plan – Notify employees in advance of the return to work, and consider categorizing workers into different groups based on job roles – bringing groups back one at a time.
- Communication – Develop a communications plan to be open and transparent with workers on your return to work process.
- Assessment – Outline the main factors your organization is using as guidance to provide a simplistic structure to the extremely complex return to work decision.
For more details and procedures, see SAFER’s 25-page summary of the framework for returning to work post-quarantine closure.