As states ease restrictions and start allowing non-essential businesses to open, there are many questions on how to keep employees healthy and safe. Leaders in every sector, from education and retail to hospitality and manufacturing, are looking at lessons learned from essential businesses to help them devise protocols that protect workers. These essential companies, which have been navigating the COVID-19 crisis for months, are often partnering with staffing firms to hire occupational health professionals to help them successfully adapt their environments by using science as a guiding principle.
Over the past six weeks, Medix has placed more than 1,000 of these professionals at a range of essential businesses. We have also retained two credentialed occupational health consultants, Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner Scarlet Spain and Safety, Risk, and Emergency Preparedness Consultant Kathy John. As a result of our placements and Scarlet and Kathy’s expertise, we have learned a great deal about developing return-to-work plans for companies and how to connect our clients with the right occupational healthcare talent for their needs. We will be sharing these insights with you in an ongoing series designed to help keep employees safe, businesses on track and productivity high.
Putting Worker Health and Safety First in the “Next Normal”
COVID-19 has had a vast impact on our way of life and will permanently alter many workplace practices, especially how businesses approach employee health. It has become abundantly clear that prevention is always the best course of action. Instead of allowing employees to work through either a physical or mental illness, companies should encourage them to take the time needed to fully recover.
Occupational health professionals can help companies devise an individualized reopen plan with this in mind. They have a long history of protecting workers from illness and injury. They are skilled at designing programs to help prevent the spread of disease and are committed to following scientific guidance found through the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA). They also have access to a vast professional network through various member organizations, such as the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
Finding the Right Occupational Health Talent is Critical for Success
Throughout the pandemic, occupational health professionals have helped many essential businesses adapt their environments so workers could safely return to their jobs. At Medix, we recognize that not every reopen strategy will look the same because there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That is where the expertise of our Medix team comes in. Their goal is to work with you to find the right occupational health professionals specific to your company and employee needs. Here are just a few areas to consider when devising your re-open strategy and finding the best talent to help support your needs:
- Assess Facilities: Whether it is a retail shop, school building, or manufacturing plant, many facilities have been sitting idle for months. Working in consultation with occupational health and environmental professionals, as well as building owners and engineers, business owners can develop a thorough sanitation process that goes beyond a deep clean and disinfection to include servicing HVAC systems, inspecting equipment and conducting necessary repair work.
- Modify the Workplace: Depending on the business, companies may also need to adapt their work environment to include items such as plexiglass partitions, cones or other visual cues to direct foot traffic, additional hand-washing/sanitation stations, reconfigured workstations and improved ventilation. Additionally, signage may be needed to remind employees of new procedures such as guidance on hand-washing and putting on personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as new policies about congregating in hallways or using vending machines.
- Create a Communication Plan: Transparency is always important, but it becomes even more so during a crisis. Employers can work with their occupational health professional to develop a communication strategy that addresses a variety of employee needs and concerns, such as what to expect on the first day back, guidance on new protocols and reassurance that their safety comes first.
- Develop Clear Safety Protocols: There are many guidelines to consider, and an occupational health professional can help create clear standards that are industry-specific and tailored to a company’s culture. Here are just a few protocols that typically cross most industries:
- Employees who are presenting with signs of illness or who have come in contact with someone presenting signs of illness need to stay home. The CDC list of COVID-19 symptoms includes fever, cough and shortness of breath.
- Social distancing, face covering, and hand washing provide excellent protection but present some challenges for certain industries and locations. Occupational health professionals can assess the unique challenges and develop workable solutions.
- Temperature screenings and rapid COVID-19 testing are becoming more common. These practices require a healthcare professional, so companies need to take that into consideration as they plan.
- Understand Federal and State Guidelines: It can be challenging to decipher federal, state and even local rules. Because this is an ongoing process and specific guidelines are constantly changing, a designated resource could help ensure companies don’t violate any rules such as social distancing guidelines, sanitation procedures and reduced occupancy requirements.
- Guide Employees Through Stress: There are many different methods for helping employees cope with stress and depression from COVID-19 and other mental health challenges. What’s important is to determine what works best for the individual company and its culture. This could include offering paid sick leave; reminding staff about Employee Assistance Programs, if available; encouraging open dialogue about fears and concerns; and being understanding about childcare or caregiver issues including illness, appointments and activities. At the end of the day, leading with strength and compassion will go a long way in helping workers feel more secure.
You may require help in a handful of these areas, all of them, or some we didn’t even cover. Or you may find your needs changing as the situation changes. Whatever the case, Medix can source the right talent to help you develop and implement your company’s unique reopen plan. To learn more, please reach out to your Medix representative or click here to contact us.