March 17, 2020
Across the globe, governments and businesses are bracing for and responding to the impacts of a worldwide Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and employers have decisions to make. You may be evaluating employee travel plans, conference attendance, remote work policies, and potential office closures.
You are almost certainly concerned not only about the life of your business, but about the lives and health of your employees. At GLE, we’ve been helping our clients keep their workers safe and healthy for more than 30 years, and we’re committed to helping our clients and employers in general get through this new crisis as it develops.
Communicate to all employees the importance of remaining home from work if they display any of the symptoms of respiratory illness, including fever, cough, or sneezing not otherwise explained by allergies or non-contagious conditions. In addition, if any of their family members exhibit any signs of illness, stay at home, even if you are not sick.
Employees may resist staying home from work if they feel that their job security, pay, or vacation will be threatened by their missed days. Evaluate sick leave policies across your organization to ensure that they do not penalize employees who choose to remain home to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. You may wish to enact a temporary change in sick day limits, and/or ensure employees receive pay for missed days if they do not already. Make a point to reassure employees that they will not lose their jobs for sick days.
This is a great time to evaluate your work from home policies and identify additional opportunities to enable your team to work remotely. Many office jobs can readily be conducted from any place with a good Internet connection. Offering the option to work from home can reduce sick days by enabling employees with mild symptoms to continue working, while simultaneously decreasing the spread of viruses.
Institute and enforce a plan to immediately quarantine workers who arrive to work with respiratory illness symptoms, or who develop them while on the job. They should be immediately removed from shared spaces, and encouraged to return home or to seek medical treatment in accordance with local health department recommendations as quickly as possible. Any spaces that they have occupied should be disinfected.
By now, everyone has heard the advice to wash hands regularly and thoroughly. This cannot be overemphasized. Post reminders in visible places, including in bathrooms, kitchen areas, and common areas. Encourage employees via email, internal memos, and in-person reminders to focus on hand hygiene for everyone’s protection.
Coronavirus, like many respiratory illnesses, can spread through the air. This means that your air filtration and HVAC systems may be vectors for its spread. Take the precaution of changing all air filters frequently, and ensuring that routine maintenance is up to date. This will help delay and reduce the transmission of viral contaminants through your air system.
Increase the frequency and ensure the thoroughness of environmental cleaning activities. Thoroughly and regularly disinfect all workstations, countertops, doorknobs, and other surfaces that experience frequent skin contact. Encourage employees to perform cleaning activities on their personal spaces daily. Provide disposable wipes and hand sanitizer to make it easy for employees to comply.
One piece of good news about Coronavirus is that it is a relatively easy virus to kill in the environment, and there are already good EPA-approved disinfectants for the purpose. Review the EPA’s recommendations here, and choose disinfectants that will get the job done.
Evaluate travel plans for employees, and consider suspending travel plans to high-risk areas when possible. Replace in-person visits with conference calls, video conferences, and other forms of remote communication. Travel can be undertaken again after the spread of Coronavirus has been controlled.
Mass gatherings are one of the key ways the virus spreads. Many organizations have already canceled or delayed gatherings of more than 10 people, and some states have begun issuing mandates to do so. Most recently, the CDC recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 10 people or more throughout the U.S. If you are hosting a conference, training workshop, or other mass gathering that you have not already canceled, we recommend following the CDC’s guidelines. It’s important to continue to stay up to date on your area’s latest recommendations and mandates.
|Minimal to Moderate||Substantial|
|Widespread and/or sustained transmission with high likelihood or confirmed exposure within communal settings with potential for rapid increase in suspected cases.||Large scale community transmission, healthcare staffing significantly impacted, multiple cases within communal settings like healthcare facilities, schools, mass gatherings etc.|
Taking these measures to protect your workers will help your team and your organization remain resilient in the face of the crisis. You’ll also earn the goodwill of your employees and customers by demonstrating your care for the safety of your workers.
We recommend that every organization have a comprehensive health and safety plan for their workers that includes response plans for emerging threats like Coronavirus. For more information on how to plan, prepare, and respond to Coronavirus in the workplace, we recommend visiting the CDC’s website here: http://bit.ly/2w3pXsN, or your local health department.