The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the suspension of operations of many different types of businesses. Beyond that, the pandemic also required businesses that remained open to restructure the way they operated in order to enhance the overall safety, health, and wellbeing of workers and others. As efforts are made to reopen the economy, businesses of all types need to closely consider what steps need to be taken to enhance the overall safety of workers and others now and into the future. A key component of this process is implementing comprehensive worker screening coupled with social distancing and associated strategies.
Complying With State and Local Worker Screening, Social Distancing, and Associated Mandates
If one thing has been constant during the COVID-19 pandemic it is change. Being a new or novel coronavirus, infectious disease experts and others are engaged in something of a learn as we go process. What this really means is that what we know about COVID-19 is evolving and changing (to some degree) over time. As a consequence, state and local mandates associated with COVID-19 and businesses are changing and altering as well.
One of the most fundamental steps that your business must take is to monitor state and local requirements as they pertain to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the latest determinations pertaining to worker screening, social distancing, masks, and related issues.
State and local governments, including the state of California, maintain up to date portals with the latest information on COVID-19. This includes information on the latest mandates and directives associated with workplaces of all types. Indeed, these portals can contain specific resources geared towards individual types of businesses and workplaces.
Comprehensive Worker Screening
Keeping a business safe during the COVID-19 pandemic requires comprehensive and consistent worker screening. Worker screening needs to occur on two levels. First, workers need to undertake self-screening on a daily basis. Second, a business needs to establish processes and protocols for worker screening that are followed religiously.
Before a worker reports to a shift, an employee needs to run through his or her own self-check relating to possible COVID-19 exposure or infection. This self-check process includes a consideration of whether or not an employee is experiencing any of the more common symptoms associated with infection by the virus. The self-check also includes a consideration of who the worker has been in contact with since his or her last shift to ascertain if he or she has been exposed to someone with the virus.
At the workplace, comprehensive worker screening needs to include a temperature check at the start of a shift and possibly at other points during the workday as well. At this juncture in time, before quick testing for the virus is a possibility or a vaccine is available, the standard temperature check remains one of the most effective worker screening tools available.
As part of the pre-shift screening process, workers can be given a short list of questions pertaining to such issues as how an employee feels and whether or not he or she is experiencing any of the more common symptoms of a COVID-19 infection. In addition, the screening questions should include queries about contacts with others.
Social Distancing and Related Strategies
If infectious disease experts agree on anything on a consistent basis it is that physical distancing or social distancing is the surest way to protect against coronavirus infection. At the present time, the recommended minimum spacing between workers in a workplace is six feet. Some respected infectious disease experts suggest that the ideal distance between workers is 10 feet.
In any event, in order to keep a business safe, every effort should be made to consistently space out workers by six feet. Because maintaining a six feet space between workers is not always possible, the use of other strategies become important. For example, the placement of plexiglass barriers is proving to be a decently reliable way in which to protect workers. Moreover, and as is discussed in a moment, masks should be used on a consistent basis in the workplace.
Masks in the Workplace
A primary strategy associated with social distancing in a workplace setting is the consistent use of appropriate masks. Some jurisdictions have mandates or directives in place that dictate exactly when, where, and how face masks must be worn, including in a workplace setting. As has already been discussed, a business must be certain that what occurs in the way of social distancing and related strategies is in full compliance with what is being required by state and local governmental authorities.
In the final analysis, by taking a comprehensive approach to worker screening, social distancing, and other strategies, a business is in the best possible position to ensure the safest possible work environment. Taking a comprehensive approach applies to all types of work settings from manufacturing plants to offices.