Health and safety measures should form the core of your return to work plan. Not only do you need to update your health and safety policies, you must also install safety controls in your workplace to minimize the risk of COVID-19.
How do I start preparing a health and safety plan for my workplace?
The first step is a risk assessment. You’ll need to review your work procedures and make changes to existing safety controls to minimize the risk of transmission
What are the common risks for transmission?
The COVID-19 virus spreads when an infected person speaks, sneezes or coughs and releases respiratory droplets into the air. These germs can travel a distance of 6 feet (2 metres) and be inhaled by other people.
COVID-19 also spreads through surface transmission. This happens when multiple people come into contact with an infected surface.
These risks can be minimized in the workplace through:
- Social distancing (staying 6 feet or 2 metres away from other people)
- Effective cleaning and hygiene measures
What measures should I take to secure my office building?
Set up an inflow plan
To avoid staff from crossing each other in the building, you may want to create an inflow plan. For example, you could put arrows in place to direct people entering the building to stay on the right side, and those exiting on the left. You could also designate doors for entry and exit.
Review common areas
Common areas such as the kitchen, cafeteria, elevators, stairways, washrooms, etc., have high touch points. They may also experience high congestion. It is important to implement social distancing measures, such as one-way staircases and hallways, fixing an occupancy limit in elevators, in such places. It is also critical to follow a rigorous cleaning and disinfection policy in these common areas.
Stagger shifts and lunch breaks
To avoid congestion and follow social distancing, you may want to stagger start and end times or recall your staff to work on a rotational basis. This may also help your employees avoid public transit congestion during peak hours.
Put up posters in the office
Put up posters on social distancing and hand hygiene best practices throughout the office and at the entrance. You should also put signage at entry points, advising staff and visitors to stay away if they are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms.
Provide hand sanitizers
You may consider providing hand sanitizer at the entry points and at work stations and in the common areas. It is advised that you use hand sanitizers and hard-surface disinfectants authorized by Health Canada. Stock your washrooms are adequate cleaning and sanitary supplies.
Opt for remote work where possible
If certain departments in your workforce that can function well remotely, ask them to work from home. Recall only those employees whose physical presence is essential for day-to-day operations.
Avoid large gatherings at work
Do not hold meetings where social distancing cannot be observed. Instead, consider holding the meeting outside or through video conferencing.
Install Plexiglass barriers where needed
Position workstations at least 2 metres apart. If your business requires frequent interaction with customers or among staff, you may want to put up Plexiglass barriers around workstations. In such a case, it is also recommended that you ask your staff and visitors to wear face masks.
Clean and disinfect shared equipment
Remember to clean and disinfect shared equipment, such as photocopiers, coffee machines, etc., after each use. Ask your staff to use their own stationery and bring their own utensils.
See clients by appointment only
If possible, conduct client meetings virtually or by appointment only. This way you can minimize congestion in the waiting area by requesting them to wait in their vehicle till it is time for their appointment.
Monitor staff and visitors for COVID-19 symptoms
Prepare a symptom assessment questionnaire for your staff to fill out before every shift. If you are seeing clients by appointment, you could email them the questionnaire in advance. This way you can reschedule in case a client is experiencing any symptoms. Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario also provide online assessment tools, which your staff can use on a regular basis.
Want to know your employer obligations surrounding COVID-19 health and safety?
For advice on health and safety policies during the pandemic, call our experts today: 1 (888) 938-0468.