Meghan Kirby - Social Distancing While Bringing the Workforce Back Together
Welcome back to the A.I.M. Mutual Podcast series on Injury Prevention and Worksite Wellness. I'm Chris Sharp and today we'll be looking at proper ways of handling social distancing while bringing the workforce back together. Meghan Kirby, Injury Prevention and Worksite Wellness Consultant at A.I.M. Mutual provides some key insights into approved policies and guidelines for safely returning to the work site and establishing a new socially distanced normal to meet this moment. Welcome, Meghan. Thanks so much for being here.
Meghan Kirby :
Hi, thanks for having me.
Okay, so let's jump right in with this. As businesses operate now in either partial or full capacities in conjunction with various states COVID response plans, what are some of the basics that business owners and employees need to know? And I know it varies a great deal by industry and location.
Yeah, absolutely. So the CDC has really been our go to resource when it comes to the basics of returning to work during this pandemic and you know, first and foremost, it goes without saying, but sick employees should always be encouraged to stay home as well as any employee who's come in contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID. If companies don't have solid sick time policies now is really the time to look at that. This is not a time to implement punitive programs as far as sick related absences. Additionally, businesses should be providing a place for employees to wash hands or providing alcohol based hand sanitizers that contain at least 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol. When using the soap and water, be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and hands should be sanitized or washed pretty frequently. And, really encouraging the employees to do that throughout the day. Now's a great time to introduce visual controls like posters or signage to educate your employees about how they can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by practicing good hand hygiene, like we just talked about and also covering coughs and sneezes, and that's really the basics.
Okay. Well, I feel like it is going to be hard for a lot of people because so much of traditionally held good business practices have revolved around teamwork and personal connection like handshakes and meetings and huddle rooms, and then travel and shared experiences. How do we need to collectively rethink that paradigm?
Absolutely. Social interactions will definitely look very different in the workplace once we return. And basically employees should really be following a no hugs, no handshakes policy. And I do think you're right. The handshake is so ingrained in us, whether it's a handshake or a hug when you're meeting somebody new, it's just what we've done for forever. Right. And Chris, if you think about the things that we used to do, like borrowing co-workers phone or their work tools, or even sharing office space, all of that might need to change temporarily and meetings like you mentioned might need to happen still, but every effort should really be made to create social distancing within the rooms, making sure the rooms have adequate ventilation or even, you know, thinking outside the box, have a meeting outside if it's a nice day and lastly businesses should consider temporarily revisiting or changing their policies regarding visitors. I know a lot of companies have frequent visitors, whether it be customers, vendors, or things like that. And that might need to change temporarily as well.
Right. And I mean, I feel like, you know, as time goes on and people start getting just tired of doing these things, what is it we can do to kind of keep the momentum around these rules going?
Totally. So, like I said posters and visuals are great but sometimes they become sort of like background noise when you walk by something 10 times a day, it's kind of just background noise. So now's a really great time to incorporate topics like social distancing, good hand hygiene, and put that in your weekly safety talks, whether it be a monthly safety committee meeting or just a weekly toolbox talk, you know, involve the employees, keep it fresh, keep the conversation going.
Okay. Yeah. I guess another issue is that, I mean, most businesses are now concentrated in cities and town centers and often require public transportation to reach them. What steps and precautions can workers take to protect themselves and their families when using mass transit?
So avoiding public transportation for the time being is ideal, but understandably, it's not always realistic for everybody. If we are finding that it's necessary to use public transportation, you might want to consider going in a little bit earlier or later to avoid kind of the rush hour crowding and places like bus stations or train stops. Also some good suggestions are to just keep a travel sized bottle of hand sanitizer on you so you can use that frequently when you're using public transportation. And if you're ever going to wear a mask, this is an excellent time to do so.
Right. Another point is that I feel like different industries outside of just the traditional office setting are going to demand specific attention, work environments like manufacturing or maintenance or shipping and receiving certainly restaurants and nursing homes each require, you know, special care and thought. How can specialty businesses prepare for return of a full workforce and then where do they find industry specific resources to help guide next steps?
Yeah, absolutely. And you're right that this return to work will look very different depending on what industry we're talking about. Again, referring back to the CDC, their website gives really awesome resources to over 15 industries from nursing homes to restaurants, to manufacturing. And you can check out that full list at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. OSHA is also another great resource and their website also lists several areas of guidance and resources on the control and prevention of COVID-19 in different industries. And I just want to touch on like you mentioned how this will differ for industries. One example, let's say a manufacturing shop. You're going to find that you have high volume, high traffic areas such as time clocks. You might want to take a look at that and see if temporarily you can kind of bypass that, whether it be manual check-in system with a supervisor or a web based program, you really want to avoid those high traffic areas.
You know what, thank you so much for your insight on this, Megan, and thank you to all of our listeners for spending this time with us. You can read more about this on the A.I.M. Mutual website and join the conversation by reaching out with any thoughts or questions you might have. Thanks again, Megan
Thank you, stay well.