Navigating the Workplace during a Pandemic
During these unprecedented times, due to the SARS-CoV-2 a novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, the landscape of creating and maintaining a safe workplace must adapt in order to keep everyone safe. Regulations in North America require Employers, Supervisors and Employees to comply with all workplace laws. Failure can result in penalties such as fines, criminal penalties or even a prison sentence for extreme cases of negligence or harm.
This blog does not cover all aspects that will need to be implemented in your workplace to maintain safety, but instead should help to incite action in these ever changing times. We encourage you to follow your local public health authority and health and safety regulators for the most current safety procedures for the workplace.
Current topical guidelines to reduce workplace risks include, but are not limited to:
- Conducting a risk assessment of your working conditions
- Sanitation and good hygiene procedures
- Use of proper PPE
- Physical distancing when possible
- Alternative measures when distancing not possible
- Updating policies and training programs
- Increased monitoring of employees and sickness
This article will cover a few topics with regards to safety training, mobile equipment operations, personal protective equipment and effective record keeping.
Health and Safety Training
When conducting health and safety training, Employers will need to consider all available options and which will be best to minimize the potential to contract and spread the virus.
Delivery: Training programs can be conducted in-house or through a third party safety training provider. While many programs can be conducted online, there are many that require a physical assessment by a qualified individual. Many safety training providers have been offering hybrid programs where theory components are conducted online and physical assessments are conducted in person. These hybrid style programs, with the aid of video conferences may become the future of safety training.
If your company provides an area to conduct computer based training, keep in mind that this area should follow the physical distancing and sanitation guidelines. The computer should not be shared while in use, thoroughly cleaned after each use, and a log kept of each person that uses the computer to help with contact tracing should an outbreak occur.
When external providers enter your workplace, a member of your management team or a team member that has received adequate training should assess the trainer’s well-being prior to entering your premises and ensure proper personal protective equipment is worn whenever possible.
Mobile Equipment Operations
For many years, NIS Training has been educating employers and operators on the requirements to complete and document a pre-operational inspection of the equipment prior to each use. Whether operating a forklift, aerial lift or loader, the pre-operational inspection is required to be completed and documented by each operator.
Employers should now consider processes to effectively sanitize the equipment pre and post operation. Businesses that tend to swap equipment operators throughout the day will need to reassess this operation. It would be best to limit to one operator per equipment per shift to minimize the potential spread through the rapid swapping of operators.
When operating aerial lifts that allow multiple personnel, it would be recommended to only permit one person on the equipment at a time. Should this not be possible, a risk assessment with proper protection equipment must be utilized.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Physical distancing may not be fully possible for every workplace, in this case, other measures will need to be introduced to help limit COVID-19 from spreading.
When introducing new procedures such as requiring gloves, masks, face shields, etc. – it is imperative to provide proper use training for your employees. This should include proper disposal procedures, best practices when wearing gloves and tips for avoiding cross contamination (e.g. touching your keys, cell phone or wallet with gloves on and not sanitizing those items when gloves are removed).
Ongoing hand washing, equipment and surface cleaning will be necessary to increase regardless of using PPE in the workplace.
Checklists and logs will be required to demonstrate compliance to regulatory officers. More often than not your local health authority has already communicated additional measures already. In order for an employer to demonstrate due diligence and prove compliance with these new regulations, the true test is documentation. Regulatory officers and courts do permit digital records as documentation, though basic protocols such as timestamps and records of who completed the document should be logged in the digital system. Note: the only true acceptable form of documentation has a full written date in proper format, first and last name written out and signature of the employee.
Employers should consider digital solutions that can limit the chaos of managing and storing paper based records. NIS Training is proud to be partnered with WalletCard, a leader in compliance systems, providing a cloud based health and safety management platform. If your company is using spreadsheets, paper forms or have siloed filing systems – we highly recommend exploring how WalletCard can help your organization document your procedures. Cloud storage is infinitely better to paper providing quicker access to records, unlimited storage capacity and gives administrators collaborative access across vast distances.
Be sure to follow the guidelines established by your local government and implement the necessary steps to ensure your staff, customers and anyone entering your workplace does not show any signs of infection. Anyone that shows signs should follow the guidelines established for self-isolation and quarantine.
Navigating through the next several months of your business will be difficult and implementing new processes might seem difficult. As a team, everyone will need to work together to keep coworkers and families safe. Should employers fail to invest in training or lack an effective communication loop with their staff – workers can exercise their right to refuse unsafe working conditions.
We hope you all stay safe as we attempt to balance the need for increased safety and protection with our economy, freedoms and livelihoods.