Businesses and employers can prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 within the workplace. Employers should respond in a way that takes into account the level of disease transmission in their communities and revise their business response plans as needed. Employers should follow the White House Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, a phased approach based on current levels of transmission and healthcare capacity at the state or local level, as part of resuming business operations. Business operation decisions should be based on both the level of disease transmission in the community and your readiness to protect the safety and health of your employees and customers.
Employers are encouraged to coordinate with state and local health officials to obtain timely and accurate information to inform appropriate responses. Local conditions will influence the decisions that public health officials make regarding community-level strategies. As an employer, if your business operations were interrupted, resuming normal or phased activities presents an opportunity to update your COVID-19 preparedness, response, and control plans. All employers should implement and update as necessary a plan that Is specific to your workplace, identifies all areas and job tasks with potential exposures to COVID-19, and includes control measures to eliminate or reduce such exposures.
Talk with your employees about planned changes and seek their input. Additionally, collaborate with employees and unions to effectively communicate important COVID-19 information. All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of COVID-19 and lower the impact in your workplace. This should include activities to prevent and reduce transmission among employees, maintain healthy business operations, and maintain a healthy work environment.
Common screening mechanisms include written questionnaires and temperature checks. Employees may also visually inspect employees or require employees to “self-report” COVID-19 symptoms. Whatever screening technique is used, it is important to clearly explain in writing to employees:
- The specific screening process you will utilize
- General benchmarks for passing the screenings (i.e. must have a temperature below 100.4ºF)
- Your expectations around your employees’ compliance with your process and any consequences for a refusal to participate
- How you will protect employee privacy
- Consequences of an unsuccessful screen (i.e. being sent home from the workplace)
Employers must also make sure that the employees or contractors administering the screening are properly trained and that they obtain appropriate acknowledgments from employees. Many places are currently using paper tracking systems, but companies like DrOwl are beginning to offer free electronic screening and tracking tools.
DrOwl provides a tool to electronically screen and track everyone who enters an organization, by creating electronic tracking of the employees and visitor activity in real-time. Enabling businesses to screen people and help to keep their workforces and facilities as safe as possible.
Using the DrOwl app or a webpage customized to each facility, each employee, visitor, or vendor is asked questions such as “have you had flu-like symptoms in the last 14 days.” Each organization can customize the questions they would like to ask.
Organizations also get an electronic log of each person and how they answered the screening questions, so that visitors who could potentially put others at risk based on their answers to the screener questions, would then be given a customized message from the organization. So, if for example, a visitor answers that they have a fever, they could be instructed to leave the facility and to get a COVID-19 test.
In addition to screening employees, vendors, and visitors, businesses should do the following:
- Actively encourage sick employees to stay home
- Consider conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks
- Identify where and how workers might be exposed to COVID-19 at work
- Separate sick employees
- Take action if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 infection
- Educate employees about steps they can take to protect themselves at work and home
To reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace, employers should develop an infectious disease preparedness and response plan that includes testing employees for the symptoms of COVID-19. Employers can implement questionnaires regarding symptoms and exposure, temperature checks at regular intervals, and implementing testing for COVID-19.