These are perplexing times we are living in, as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has recently been escalated to a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Looking at developments in the worst-hit countries like Italy, where a whole nation has gone into quarantine to contain the spread, Americans are wondering if we are likewise destined for a similar fate.
Meanwhile, life must go on. It has fallen upon company management to take a leadership role to help contain the crisis within their workforce. This is especially true for organizations like our heavy equipment customers who need crews on the ground and cannot easily shift their employees to telecommuting from home.
Below, we have listed 10 precautions that may help you limit the impact that the virus could potentially have on the health of your workers and the future of your operations:
# 1: Have an EMT in Place
Dealing with a rogue virus is different than bracing for a natural disaster, like a flood or storm, whose pathways are usually somewhat predictable.
Leadership may feel lost in the mass panic as the virus continues to spread. In these cases, appointing an EMT (emergency management team) may be an efficient way to help control the situation.
Put all coronavirus-related matters – from employee health to workers’ compensation and legal compliance – in the hands of the EMT. Give them sufficient authority so they can act quickly in times of emergency. Consolidating management response and action in this way will reduce chances of knee-jerk reactions coming from those in authority, who may not fully understand the gravity of the circumstances and could unintentionally make a bad situation worse.
# 2: Prove That You Care
Build trust with employees that they are the management’s prime concern.
A survey conducted within the construction sector by Construction Dive has revealed how the COVID-19 virus is affecting the workplace. The findings are as follows:
- Anxiety among workers: 70%
- Shortage of materials: 23%
- Sick workers: 14%
- Local government shutdowns: 10%
- Fewer clients: 10%
- Others: 3%
As is clearly apparent from the figures above, allaying fears and anxieties of job security, person-to-person contraction, etc. among workers is currently of the utmost importance.
# 3: Be Aware of Workers’ Individual Risk Factors
According to OSHA’s guidelines, management should be aware of those who are more likely than others to experience the worst of the crisis. For example: older staff members, pregnant women, and those who are immunocompromised or have other pre-existing health conditions.
# 4: Take Declaration of Sickness at Face Value
Do not make it mandatory for employees with respiratory illness to a doctor’s note, advises OSHA. Healthcare offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy. Therefore, they’ll likely be unable to provide such documentation in a timely manner.
# 5: Implement Engineering Controls
In workplaces where they are appropriate, these types of controls reduce exposure to hazards without relying on worker behavior. For example, increasing ventilation rates in the work environment or installing a drive-through window for customer service may be beneficial to containing the spread of the virus.
# 6: Implement Safe Work Practices
Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 % alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
# 7: Limit or Suspend Business Travel
If your operations require employees to travel, check with CDC (Centers For Disease Control) guidelines. They have designated levels of risk for the entire globe. (Click HERE to see their geographic risk assessment.)
Consider the ramifications of travel at this time. Suspend trips that aren’t absolutely necessary to help contain the spread between states and countries. Also keep in mind that due to new containment measures being implemented, your employees may not be able to return home without being quarantined or put into voluntary isolation.
# 8: Let Non-Essential Employees Work From Home
Remote working may not have been part of your company culture in the past. However, now is a great time to consider advising non-essential staff members to work from home. Your job site crew likely cannot be asked to do that, but the administrative staff possibly can.
In this age of accelerated technology, the idea of staying connected via team collaboration apps like Slack, Zoom and WorkZone is becoming more commonplace. Taking part in conferences, meetings, and project follow-ups virtually may also help reduce your company overhead long after the threat of the virus has passed.
# 9: Limit Business Meetings
Keep business meetings to a minimum. Use other means of communication (as stated above). If meetings are unavoidable, make sure that attendees stay at least 6 feet apart from one another. Avoid physical contact, like handshakes. Also, mandate that hands should be washed immediately before the meeting, as you’ll probably be touching the same files and paperwork.
# 10: Limit Visitors
If customers, vendors, and other business-related professionals visit your office on a daily basis, then it’s important to screen them. To best contain the spread of the virus, try to reduce these face-to-face interactions. Use emails, phone calls, or video calls as much as possible. No matter how many precautions you take to protect your staff, you cannot guarantee that outsiders are not infectious and won’t bring the disease into your workplace.
Stay safe and good luck!