Employers have experienced a lot of changes in the workplace in the past six weeks with stay at home orders causing employers to move to remote work, wear masks, implement social distancing guidelines or lay-off of employees due to sudden economic downturn. In Ohio, our government has taken a phased approach to reopen workplaces and the economy. But even with this gradual approach, are employers prepared to have employees return to the physical work environment?
For general office environments, this flyer provides the guidance that you need to plan and make decisions on how to get people back to work safely. There are mandatory and recommended best practices for the state of Ohio that provides a roadmap on what you should do.
In addition to those guidelines, what else should you consider in the physical work environment to ensure the safety of all employees?
First, assess your organization’s physical work environment to ensure the workplace is safe and ready for employees to return to the office. Use the requirements established by the Ohio Department of Health to ensure regular disinfecting of desks, workstations, high-contact services and common areas. Other things to consider include:
Next, determine which positions are required to come back into a physical environment and which roles can continue to work from home. The Governor has mandated that all employees who can perform work from home are to do so. For those jobs which are required to be in the office, the Ohio Department of Health has established mandatory requirements limiting the number of employees to 50% of the building fire codes maximum capacity.
Then prepare and communicate to all employees the requirements and actions you are taking to provide a safe work environment. Provide an opportunity for employees to ask questions and address their concerns. One of the mandatory requirements includes posting signage on health safety guidelines in common areas.
Finally, execute the plan, monitor state guidelines, and monitor the environment to ensure the continued safety of your employees.
There are likely additional precautions to undertake when you have employees on a manufacturing or distribution floor. Social distancing and extensive cleaning to ensure that facilities are clean and safe are critical to these industries. The New England Journal of Medicine reports that the novel coronavirus can live on a number of surfaces for an extended period of time. It is more stable on plastic and stainless steel than on copper and cardboard and the virus was detected up to 72 hours after application on these surfaces.  Having a regular cleaning schedule daily is an important consideration.
 Create operating strategies that include moving to seven days if not already doing so to bring in fewer workers on each shift
These are just some of the ideas that employers can consider when planning for employees returning to a physical work environment. We’d love to hear what your organization is doing to ensure the safety of your employees as we work to reopen workplaces.
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