How to Enhance Health and Safety Protocols in Your Workplace
Safety in the workplace has evolved tremendously over the years and has grown even more complicated with the coronavirus health crisis. Employee safety is about so much more than comfort. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has established guidelines for businesses to help cultivate safe workspaces, and employers now have a federally mandated responsibility to provide secure, professional settings for all employees.
Having set tools and procedures as part of a formulated emergency response plan is the best way to create a healthy and safe atmosphere for all members of your organization. A few additional considerations can enhance your workplace safety protocols and take your emergency planning to another level.
Creating a Safety Oriented Culture
Even the best emergency response plans can fall flat if employees do not understand or adhere to safety measures, and if there is not a wide acceptance of safety in your organization. Creating a culture of safety requires integrating occupational health and safety education and practice into everyday work life.
Engaging employees through stories and hands-on practice is necessary for strengthening engagement with safety policies. Active communication is vital in fostering a sense of urgency and ownership in safety practices. Establishing an occupational health and safety committee that governs education and engagement will move the needle in fostering effective safety practices in corporate settings.
New Safety Considerations in the Age of COVID-19
The workplaces and work habits that we once knew are long gone, at least for now, and businesses are now tasked with creating a highly practical plan to combat an unseen threat. Adding an infectious disease management piece to emergency plans is now essential to develop a fully comprehensive strategy.
Businesses should compose a multifaceted approach that combines educating employees, feedback, providing health supplies, crafting policies, and health checks. One of the early decisions that should be made is deciding if employees will be required to work in-office or if any exceptions can be made.
Businesses should clearly state what exactly the exceptions from working onsite are and proper notification protocols for telecommuting. Companies must plot out how to space desks, and other workspaces before employees report to work.
Barriers may also be needed, and policies for shared spaces such as kitchens and meeting rooms should be communicated in advance. Training on new protocols is the best way to ensure that employees can navigate new practices. Companies should provide hand sanitizer, disposable masks, and sanitizing wipes for surfaces, and devices.
Just like other emergency protocols are shared with employees, the full array of infectious disease policies should also be communicated with staff members. Policies should address what employees should do if they present symptoms along with mask policies, travel notification procedures, and pertinent details around how temperature checks with a non-contact thermometer would be conducted. It should also include an exposure plan if a COVID-19 outbreak were to occur and sanitation policies.
Infectious disease planning should also include air quality procedures in order to prevent Sick Building Syndrome, which is attributed to airborne building contaminants that circulate through ventilation systems. Facilities managers can schedule yearly inspections to prevent illness, and having in-office air purifiers or opening windows may also help.
What Your Emergency Response Plan Might be Missing
Once your initial emergency response plan is created, response teams can review the plan and revise as needed. A few additional resources, equipment, and tools that will strengthen emergency response plans include the following:
- Give Your Employees Go Bags – Employees should keep a go-bag that consists of any necessary medications, tennis shoes, bottled water, meal bars, and a face covering that can be grabbed quickly in the event of an emergency.
- Add an AED to Your Toolkit – 10,000 cardiac arrests per year occur at work, and every office should have an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). The Lifepak CR Plus is a great AED for offices because it’s an easy, 2-step device to use without training. Offices should make sure to have a Lifepak defibrillator battery replacement to ensure it’s always operable.
- Store Extra Food and Bottled Water – Not all emergencies require an evacuation. In a shelter-in-place scenario or other devastation (such as a natural disaster or structure collapse), employees may not be able to leave for an extended period of time. Keeping emergency storage of water and non-perishable food is advised.
- Add Life and Safety Drills to Your Training – Fire drills can become standard and somewhat monotonous, and it’s vital to keep employees in a ready state. Other types of scenarios that require a different response other than evacuation should also be part of your emergency response training playbook. This could include shelter-in-place drills, CPR/AED training, or what to do during a chemical attack.
Emergency response teams should inspect all equipment and review response plans and procedures monthly. Inspections of AEDs, flashlights, food, fire extinguishers, and all other emergency systems is vital. Inspections logs and user manuals should be kept with the emergency response plan. Involving employees in health and safety initiatives will help to build ownership and teach employees about occupational health and safety at the same time.