As the States gradually phase in industries to reopen, there is a lot of new guidance to both businesses reopening and those who have been operating under the essential work guidelines. How do you incorporate the recommended safe operating procedures to get back in operation? How do you ensure your employees are comfortable returning? How do you stay in operation without a COVID-19 vaccine or a cure? The best solution to all three questions is to do a risk assessment, create a strategic plan to address the risks, and develop a strong two-way communication plan about the safety protocols you are putting in place.
Conduct a risk assessment and determine what areas need to reopen first and what the risks are for the employees and customers in those areas. Do not limit yourself to just Covid-19 transmission but consider what other safety hazards may be unintentional consequences of the new processes. Some examples include:
Ensuring employees wearing masks with ties secure the ties prior to working around equipment like conveyors to prevent them from getting drawn into the equipment.
Ensuring gloves fit snugly and cannot get caught up in machinery.
Determining options for employees that may have issues with glasses fogging due to the mask requirement. Can they use a face shield or perhaps position glasses differently? maybe resting on the mask or ensuring the mask is snug on top.
Having a smooth surface so that the customer can slide merchandise to the register while remaining 6-ft back; especially if you use totes or pallets to create the space in front of the register.
For more physical distancing tips see my blog Is Social Distancing the Answer?
Make sure the team mitigates the identified hazards with either engineering controls, administrative controls or lastly personal protection. OSHA’s Hazard Assessment may be useful.
Strategy to Reduce Covid Risk
Create a cross functional response team that can develop a written playbook, policies, and procedures to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. This team can also coordinate solutions for any employee concerns. Lear has created a safety playbook for auto manufacturing industry that they are sharing. There is a great article from today’s motor vehicles that describes the Lear Safe Work Playbook. Their plan is based on CDC guidelines. Educate your safety committee so they can help support the new guidance. Be sure to get feedback from the employees about their concerns and what they think is working well.
COMMUNICATING SAFETY PROTOCOLS
Communication will be the key to keeping the operations running safely and ensuring the population stays healthy. We are in this together and the best way to get thru it is together. Establishing a fluid 2-way communication plan will be critical to success. This will be more challenging with staggered shifts and teleworking. Find ways to connect with the employees on a regular basis. Use tools you have in place like your company conferencing and chat platforms and Company Social Media pages. Establish and publish when to expect communication updates. Focus on next steps and be sure to share the positive things happening in your business/industry as well. Mind tools has a great article on communication and identifying audiences.
Many states are encouraging employees to speak up and report violations. Violating the guidelines can result in the operation being inspected and potentially shut down until it can operate safely. Be sure your employees understand that you want to hear their ideas and concerns. Follow-up timely to all feedback. This will give you the opportunity to mitigate any hazards and keep everyone working, healthy and informed.
Bill T, Michele, Mind Tools Content Team, Mind Tools Content Team, & Mind Tools Content Team. (n.d.). Communications Planning: Getting the Right Message Across in the Right Way. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/CommunicationsPlanning.htm
Centers for Disease Control. (2020, April 17). Communities, Schools, and Workplaces. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/index.html
Lear. (2020, April 26). Safe Work Playbook: 2nd Edition. Retrieved April 28, 2020, from https://www.lear.com/Site/Company/Safe-Work-Playbook.aspx
Schoenberger, R. (2020, April 8). Lear creates, shares return-to-work playbook. Retrieved from https://www.todaysmotorvehicles.com/article/lear-covid-return-to-work-playbook/
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/hazard-Identification.html