| 15 May, 2020 | 5 Min Read

How to ensure workplace safety as employees return to work after COVID-19?

As businesses start opening up after COVID-19, learn the factors to consider before reopening your offices and preventive measures to put in place to ensure your employee safety.

With business reopening measures being adopted, companies are looking to return to their workplace as soon as possible. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has made everyday office interaction become “unusual”. Therefore, the biggest concern for companies is protecting their business and employees from the threat still posed by the outbreak.

Before now, employees have been working remotely in the safe comfort of their homes. Hence, some employees may not feel safe returning to work yet. Employers need to recognize this and assure employees of their safety while putting measures in place to prevent a possible spread from the virus. So, how can they do this?

In this article, we look at the best ways to protect your employees as they return to work. Before that, we need to know what employers must pay attention to before reopening their offices.


What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by a coronavirus discovered in Wuhan, China.

The COVID-19 virus spreads via droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person. People may also contract the virus by touching objects or surfaces contaminated by these droplets.

The most frequently reported symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, difficulty in breathing and dry cough. However, an infected person also suffers from diarrhea, aches and pains, nasal congestion, or sore throat.

The latest figures about the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the World Health Organization (as of May 13) show that:

"Across the world, there are more than 4,258,666 confirmed cases with 294,190 deaths in 216 countries or territories".

Countries all over the world are finding success in curbing the spread of the virus:

    • European countries (such as Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland etc.) are preparing to or have already eased their lockdown restriction to allow businesses to resume.

  • Countries in the Asian region (such as China, Vietnam, and South Korea) have allowed normal business operations in almost every sector.

  • Other Asian countries are still battling the virus (such as India, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.) have set some restrictions in place as they allow businesses to reopen.

  • The United States is exploring ways to ease restrictions and resume business activities.


Factors to consider before reopening your business

Before employers can ask employees to resume, they are to do the following:

Determine who to return:

For the social distancing measures to work, not every employee should resume at the same time. Employees who are not comfortable returning to work yet and the ones who can perform their duty perfectly from home may be exempted.

Also, high-risk employees should be allowed to continue working from home in the meantime. The people that fall into this category are pregnant women, older employees, and employees with health issues like cancer, kidney, and liver diseases.

Update the company’s policies:

Employers should update their company policies to fit the current times. New policies like the work from home guidelines should be added. In addition, the lessons learned from this crisis should be included in the company’s crisis management.

Refer to local guidelines:

Employers should follow and get a reference from local government guidelines. This will help them know if their business is among those allowed to open. In addition, following the local guidelines will help employers understand the rules to adhere to once they reopen their business such as the safety measures, the number of gatherings allowed, etc.

Adopt rotating shifts:

Companies may need to implement rotating shift policy as they ease their employees back to work. Adopting this policy will help reduce the number of employees in the office at any given time. For instance, employers can implement a morning and afternoon shift between different groups of employees or adopt a departmental shift by allocating different days to each department.


Measures to take to ensure workplace safety for returning employees

As reopen your workplace, here are the measures you should take to ensure your employee safety:

1. Employee hygiene

Encourage respiratory etiquette and proper hygiene among employees. The best ways to do this include; provide soap and water in the office restrooms, make hand sanitizers available around the office and place signs encouraging constant hand-washing. In addition, discourage handshakes and all forms of physical contact among employees.

2. Encourage the use of face mask

Encourage the use of face coverings or masks among employees in the office. Employers should prepare face masks supply sources to ensure they are available to all employees. Moreover, establish appropriate face mask rules not only for employees but also for customers to adhere properly.

3. Health measures

Employers should implement proper health measures as laid down by the local authorities. Daily temperature checks should be taken at the entrance. In addition, any employees who display symptoms should be sent home. Lastly, employers should have a list of hospitals providing COVID-19 testing they can contact to guide employees if needed.

4. Office cleaning measures

Regular office cleaning measures should be introduced. Disinfectant of frequently touched surfaces like the photocopier, elevator buttons, bathroom, and stair rails should be executed at constant intervals. Provisions of disinfectant wipes can be made available to employees so they can clean their workspace and door handles.

5. Workspace measures

Discourage employees from sharing their desks, phones, and workspace with any colleague. Temporary workspaces can be created for some employees to avoid clustering. Common gatherings areas like the pantries, conference room and games room should be temporarily shut down.

6. Social distancing measures

Measures that ensure employees stay at least 1 meter from each other should be applied. Limiting the number of employees per floor is one way to start. Other ways to ensure social distancing are; limiting the number of employees allowed in the bathroom and elevator and assigning different break times to employees.

7. Office visits

Visitors should be discouraged from coming into the office for now. In necessary cases, it should be compulsory to take visitor temperature at the entrance and record their arrival information. Essentials such as face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers should be provided to them.

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