Helpful Guidance for Safely Returning to Work
As Alaskans move closer to reopening offices and schools and moving employees back into the workplace, we need to make sure that we are taking the appropriate steps to keep our employees safe. Thankfully, there are some great resources out there to guide us in the reopening process.
The State of Alaska has provided resources for reopening specific to Alaskan employers, including their reopening guidelines, an FAQ section, and other documents, on the state’s website at https://covid19.alaska.gov/reopen/.
On the national level, the federal government has come out with some helpful resources and guidance for reopening safely and responsibly. You can find the White House’s guidelines at Opening America and the CDC’s reopening guidance here CDC guidance.
The National Safety Council (NSC) as well as the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) also have helpful resources to assist in the reopening process. The NSC has a document called, “Safe Actions For Employee Returns (SAFER)” that goes over many aspects of getting back in the workplace. These include employment, legal, and human resources considerations, as well as implementing hygiene and infection control practices. The NSC SAFER document can be found here NSC Safe Actions For Employee Returns. The AIHA has coined their guidance as “Back to Work Safely”. These resources provide guidelines for general office settings, gyms and workout facilities, construction locations, and guidance for various other industries. Their information can be found at https://www.backtoworksafely.org/.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has provided some great communication tools including workplace posters on “Respirators at Work” and “Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus”. You can find OSHA’s COVID-19 resources at OSHA’s website.
Each of these resources have excellent information on reopening the workplace with three major components to keep in mind.
- The first is to continue to practice good hygiene. This includes washing your hands after touching frequently used items or surfaces, as well as disinfecting those same surfaces often throughout the day.
- The second is to continue to practice social and physical distancing. This can be challenging in the workplace, but there are some best practices we can follow to accomplish appropriate distancing. Employees should be encouraged to reduce gatherings or socialization in common areas such as break rooms, lobbies, and kitchens. Consider performing a detailed review of the layout of your office space and workstations, reconfiguring workstations so that employees do not face each other or possibly placing additional partitions between workstations.
- The final takeaway is to maintain open communication throughout the reopening process. This may be the most important factor in getting our employees back to work safely. Employers must maintain open lines of communication to employees on what is being done to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. From access to and appropriate us of personal protective equipment to understanding the signs and symptoms of the virus, effective communication is key. This also includes establishing routes of communication for employees to express concerns, questions, comments, and feedback as it relates to COVID-19 and the reopening process.
By following the guidelines produced by the State of Alaska, the Federal Government, and other national organizations, we can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and get employees back into the workplace safely.