Five Steps Before Returning to Onsite Operations

May 15, 2020

When we think of supply chains, commodities and distribution channels come to mind. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how critical people are to those supply chains. For supply chains, teleworking is not possible; onsite operations—at manufacturing sites, warehouses, and loading docks—are essential.

As many parts of the country prepare to resume onsite operations, ensuring employee safety is imperative. Employers have a longstanding duty to protect employees within their facilities from known health risks. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, this now includes protection from COVID-19 transmission.

Five Keys Steps for Reopening the Workplace

LMI’s occupational safety experts recommend that organizations take these steps before returning to onsite operations:

Step 1

Step 1: Identify and review employee activities.

Retain a medical or occupational health expert to address potential risks for COVID-19 transmission. Consider daily activities that employees typically perform, including use of commons areas (breakrooms and restrooms) and movement (entering and exiting the facility, stairwells, elevators, and company vehicles or shuttles). Modify or streamline activities to reduce risk, both inside company facilities and at other locations.

Step 2

Step 2: Prepare and adapt facilities.

Ensure facilities have been cleaned and sanitized, with arrangements in place to increase custodial services. Inspect the HVAC system for proper function as well as clean filters proper ventilation, and adequate fresh air. Review and modify the layout of employee workstations to promote social distancing. Consider the installation of shields or barriers where employees interact. Manage traffic flow in “bottleneck” areas where employees cannot easily maintain six feet apart, perhaps limiting the number of employees in those areas.

Step 3

Step 3: Ensure adequate supplies.

Maintain sufficient supplies of soap, water, and paper towels in restrooms and break areas; hand sanitizer dispensers and wipes throughout the facility; and, to the extent possible, disposable or washable cloth facemasks. Remember that while facemasks help reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from infected individuals, they are most effective in conjunction with other measures, including frequent handwashing and physical distancing.

Step 4

Step 4: Communicate clearly and frequently with employees.

Explain the COVID-19 risks, planned prevention measures, and employee responsibilities before your workforce returns. Have human resources policies in place, taking care not to incentivize working onsite when feeling ill. Establish protocols to manage confirmed or potential cases of COVID-19 exposure within a facility. Offer alternatives not only for employees with underlying medical conditions but to anyone uncomfortable accepting the current level of risk returning to a worksite. Include COVID-19 prevention in your safety training program and display educational posters. Remind employees about prevention measures, including prompt reporting of illnesses or symptoms, social distancing, handwashing, and the frequent disinfection of “high-contact” surfaces.

Step 5

Step 5: Walk the walk.

Make sure your executive leadership and managers exemplify COVID-19 prevention policies in their own behavior. Monitor infection rates closely, and be ready to adjust policies, processes, and procedures accordingly.

Some policies will be relaxed as the risk for COVID-19 transmission subsides, but at this phase, strict adherence is integral to mitigating risk to employees. Continue to monitor OSHA and other public health guidance, local risk levels, and the effectiveness of COVID-19 prevention policies.

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