Why its important to track COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace

With all the changes businesses had to go through a year ago, the widespread roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines is welcome news. As more and more individuals get vaccinated with the hope to return to somewhat normal life, businesses must find ways of managing and tracking workers who have received the vaccination in order to plan accordingly. 

Knowing the vaccination status of every employee is crucial to creating a safe workplace for everyone. As more information becomes available about the long-term effects of the several available COVID-19 vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other authoritative health entities review and update their guidelines and recommendations on acceptable and safe interactions between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. 

As you can imagine, there are so many ethical considerations on how private healthcare information such as whether an employee is vaccinated or not should be handled, and every employer must be aware of what practices are acceptable or not in documenting the vaccination status of their employees. 

To help employers navigate this new world of COVID-19 vaccinations, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has set up a Workplace Vaccination Program that is intended to help employers handle workplace COVID-19 vaccination processes. 

According to the CDC, an employer can support and promote a COVID-19 vaccination culture within their organization by providing accurate and relevant information about COVID-19 vaccination and “establishing supportive policies and practices” that can help build confidence in COVID-19 vaccines. 

Strong confidence in the vaccine would naturally lead to more people opting to get vaccinated which reduces the spread of COVID-19 and consequently reduces absenteeism, hospitalizations, and death. The more people that get vaccinated within a company, the more other employees will feel comfortable getting their vaccination as well. Promoting a positive culture and celebrating COVID-19 vaccinations within the workplace can: 

  • improve employee morale
  • reduce COVID-19-related absences
  • decrease disruption of workflow
  • reduce absence due to illness
  • increase productivity  

 

What Employers Should Be Doing Now

Every employer wants a productive and balanced workforce. With COVID-19 leading to illnesses and absenteeism, and so much inaccurate information surrounding the vaccines, this is the time to start building vaccine confidence for employees. 

Here are some steps to help build vaccine confidence in your workplace: 

  • Conduct a toolbox talk by adapting key messages defined by the CDC in the language, tone, and format that will resonate with your organization.  
  • Share local health department information on a regular basis. 
  • Have open discussions allowing employees to ask questions and air any concerns.  
  • Encourage leaders in your organization to share their stories and testimonials about how and why they got vaccinated. 

 

The content delivery module in the SafetyTek platform can help to easily communicate these messages to employees and also track who has consumed the information. 

While no one can be forced to get the vaccine, keeping track of employees who have received a partial COVID-19 vaccination, a completed dose of the vaccine, and those who are unvaccinated is important in providing a workspace that is safe for all employees.

Knowing which of your employees are at greater risk of getting sick or spreading COVID-19 will help you plan your workspaces accordingly. In the event of an outbreak as well, employers can identify, inform and/or isolate employees that either haven’t been vaccinated or are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. 

SaftyTek’s COVID-19 Solution helps businesses track and report on key data related to employee vaccinations. Collecting information more efficiently and having all your data in an easy-to-track system, allows you to focus on prevention and reduce incidents of COVID-19 infections to create an overall safer environment for all employees. 

Screening Visitors in your workplace for COVID-19

As employers develop their return to work plans and consider the path back to the office, the first step is to ensure their health and safety. While employees are the priority, it's essential to think through how to screen your visitors for COVID-19 so that they are included in your screening plan.

While some businesses will move forward without allowing visitors into the workplace, many must consider visitors to reopen appropriately. Depending on your organization's needs, an extensive range of screening scenarios may work for you. All employers must ensure they include visitors in their return to work plan and communicate that plan with all workers.

What are Your COVID-19 Screening Requirements?

The goal of creating a plan for managing visitors is to protect your workforce from COVID-19 exposure. Taking proactive actions helps keep everyone protected and gives employers a complete record to look back on a specific COVID-19 test result. 

Reasonably, your business only sees a few guests a week and will require them to wear masks, social distance and sign in when arriving. Suppose your company has a higher level of visitors or an increased risk of close physical contact. If that's the case, a screening questionnaire and temperature check should be required before a visitor can enter your business. 

It's essential to think about what level of screening makes sense and what will keep employees protected. After all, this is personal information that you're collecting, and the less you collect, the better. Once you've decided on what you will need from your visitors, you can communicate your policy and open your doors confidently.

Details to Consider When Screening a Visitor

When you are planning your visitor screening procedures, here are some factors to consider:

  1. Ensure you screen visitors, while maintaining physical distancing, if possible. Proactive screening questionnaires help assess symptoms before it's too late, and they are working alongside your staff. Increase efficiency by ensuring you have all of the required information you need before a visitor arrives. Screening visitors also allows you to communicate your policy requirements well in advance while maintaining social distancing requirements. Pre-screening also enables you to get sign-off for all legal messaging about data collection, privacy, tracing procedures before accepting them into your workplace.
  2. Develop and communicate your plan, so everyone involved is aware of screening requirements. If you choose not to conduct early screening, how will you be communicating your visitor policies to the public? Whose responsibility is it to conduct screening on-site and enforce your policy requirements with your visitors? Communicate these details and be crystal clear with your intent so that your staff and visitors understand them.
  3. Gain Information for Potential Contact Tracing. Along with the necessary visitor details of name, email, and phone number, make sure to gather a full detailed record of whom your visitors came into close contact with in case of future contact tracing. COVID-19 team member and visitor screening applications have made this easy by allowing your workers to easily report their symptoms and deliver screening results while flagging risk increases.
  4. Determine your response for non-compliant visitors. There may be visitors who choose not to follow your screening procedures. Make sure you are transparent with employees on what to do in these cases.

 

Screening and Exposure Prevention Methods

Organizations must take significant steps to prepare workers for re-entry into the workforce and prepare and adapt the workplace itself in readiness, as infections are still widespread throughout much of the world. Once workers return to work, critical actions are required to reduce potential exposure and limit the risk of a new outbreak.

  • Mandatory masks
  • Sanitization
  • Reconfiguring workplaces for social distancing
  • Limited visitor hours and locations within the workplace
  • Pre-checks and location audits
  • Pre-screening staff and visitors
  • PPE management procedures
  • Change management system
  • Mandatory daily health screenings
  • Workforce training for staff and new visitors
  • Enhanced building access
  • Remote management
  • Psychological safety

 

You can watch our webinar for more detail on 12 key considerations when opening your office during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are looking for expert help on COVID-19 employee self-assessments as required for compliance, get in touch with us to see how we can help

As employers develop their return to work plans and consider the path back to the office, the first step is to ensure their health and safety. While employees are the priority, it's essential to think through how to screen your visitors for COVID-19 so that they are included in your screening plan.

While some businesses will move forward without allowing visitors into the workplace, many must consider visitors to reopen appropriately. Depending on your organization's needs, an extensive range of screening scenarios may work for you. All employers must ensure they include visitors in their return to work plan and communicate that plan with all workers.

What are Your COVID-19 Screening Requirements?

The goal of creating a plan for managing visitors is to protect your workforce from COVID-19 exposure. Taking proactive actions helps keep everyone protected and gives employers a complete record to look back on a specific COVID-19 test result. 

Reasonably, your business only sees a few guests a week and will require them to wear masks, social distance and sign in when arriving. Suppose your company has a higher level of visitors or an increased risk of close physical contact. If that's the case, a screening questionnaire and temperature check should be required before a visitor can enter your business. 

It's essential to think about what level of screening makes sense and what will keep employees protected. After all, this is personal information that you're collecting, and the less you collect, the better. Once you've decided on what you will need from your visitors, you can communicate your policy and open your doors confidently.

Details to Consider When Screening a Visitor

When you are planning your visitor screening procedures, here are some factors to consider:

  1. Ensure you screen visitors, while maintaining physical distancing, if possible. Proactive screening questionnaires help assess symptoms before it's too late, and they are working alongside your staff. Increase efficiency by ensuring you have all of the required information you need before a visitor arrives. Screening visitors also allows you to communicate your policy requirements well in advance while maintaining social distancing requirements. Pre-screening also enables you to get sign-off for all legal messaging about data collection, privacy, tracing procedures before accepting them into your workplace.
  2. Develop and communicate your plan, so everyone involved is aware of screening requirements. If you choose not to conduct early screening, how will you be communicating your visitor policies to the public? Whose responsibility is it to conduct screening on-site and enforce your policy requirements with your visitors? Communicate these details and be crystal clear with your intent so that your staff and visitors understand them.
  3. Gain Information for Potential Contact Tracing. Along with the necessary visitor details of name, email, and phone number, make sure to gather a full detailed record of whom your visitors came into close contact with in case of future contact tracing. COVID-19 team member and visitor screening applications have made this easy by allowing your workers to easily report their symptoms and deliver screening results while flagging risk increases.
  4. Determine your response for non-compliant visitors. There may be visitors who choose not to follow your screening procedures. Make sure you are transparent with employees on what to do in these cases.

 

Screening and Exposure Prevention Methods

Organizations must take significant steps to prepare workers for re-entry into the workforce and prepare and adapt the workplace itself in readiness, as infections are still widespread throughout much of the world. Once workers return to work, critical actions are required to reduce potential exposure and limit the risk of a new outbreak.

  • Mandatory masks
  • Sanitization
  • Reconfiguring workplaces for social distancing
  • Limited visitor hours and locations within the workplace
  • Pre-checks and location audits
  • Pre-screening staff and visitors
  • PPE management procedures
  • Change management system
  • Mandatory daily health screenings
  • Workforce training for staff and new visitors
  • Enhanced building access
  • Remote management
  • Psychological safety

 

You can watch our webinar for more detail on 12 key considerations when opening your office during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are looking for expert help on COVID-19 employee self-assessments as required for compliance, get in touch with us to see how we can help

As employers develop their return to work plans and consider the path back to the office, the first step is to ensure their health and safety. While employees are the priority, it's essential to think through how to screen your visitors for COVID-19 so that they are included in your screening plan.

While some businesses will move forward without allowing visitors into the workplace, many must consider visitors to reopen appropriately. Depending on your organization's needs, an extensive range of screening scenarios may work for you. All employers must ensure they include visitors in their return to work plan and communicate that plan with all workers.

What are Your COVID-19 Screening Requirements?

The goal of creating a plan for managing visitors is to protect your workforce from COVID-19 exposure. Taking proactive actions helps keep everyone protected and gives employers a complete record to look back on a specific COVID-19 test result. 

Reasonably, your business only sees a few guests a week and will require them to wear masks, social distance and sign in when arriving. Suppose your company has a higher level of visitors or an increased risk of close physical contact. If that's the case, a screening questionnaire and temperature check should be required before a visitor can enter your business. 

It's essential to think about what level of screening makes sense and what will keep employees protected. After all, this is personal information that you're collecting, and the less you collect, the better. Once you've decided on what you will need from your visitors, you can communicate your policy and open your doors confidently.

Details to Consider When Screening a Visitor

When you are planning your visitor screening procedures, here are some factors to consider:

  1. Ensure you screen visitors, while maintaining physical distancing, if possible. Proactive screening questionnaires help assess symptoms before it's too late, and they are working alongside your staff. Increase efficiency by ensuring you have all of the required information you need before a visitor arrives. Screening visitors also allows you to communicate your policy requirements well in advance while maintaining social distancing requirements. Pre-screening also enables you to get sign-off for all legal messaging about data collection, privacy, tracing procedures before accepting them into your workplace.
  2. Develop and communicate your plan, so everyone involved is aware of screening requirements. If you choose not to conduct early screening, how will you be communicating your visitor policies to the public? Whose responsibility is it to conduct screening on-site and enforce your policy requirements with your visitors? Communicate these details and be crystal clear with your intent so that your staff and visitors understand them.
  3. Gain Information for Potential Contact Tracing. Along with the necessary visitor details of name, email, and phone number, make sure to gather a full detailed record of whom your visitors came into close contact with in case of future contact tracing. COVID-19 team member and visitor screening applications have made this easy by allowing your workers to easily report their symptoms and deliver screening results while flagging risk increases.
  4. Determine your response for non-compliant visitors. There may be visitors who choose not to follow your screening procedures. Make sure you are transparent with employees on what to do in these cases.

 

Screening and Exposure Prevention Methods

Organizations must take significant steps to prepare workers for re-entry into the workforce and prepare and adapt the workplace itself in readiness, as infections are still widespread throughout much of the world. Once workers return to work, critical actions are required to reduce potential exposure and limit the risk of a new outbreak.

  • Mandatory masks
  • Sanitization
  • Reconfiguring workplaces for social distancing
  • Limited visitor hours and locations within the workplace
  • Pre-checks and location audits
  • Pre-screening staff and visitors
  • PPE management procedures
  • Change management system
  • Mandatory daily health screenings
  • Workforce training for staff and new visitors
  • Enhanced building access
  • Remote management
  • Psychological safety

 

You can watch our webinar for more detail on 12 key considerations when opening your office during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you are looking for expert help on COVID-19 employee self-assessments as required for compliance, get in touch with us to see how we can help

President’s Biden’s Executive Order on Workplace Health and Safety

The overwhelming negative impact of COVID-19 on many companies is not news to any business entity. The Washington Post and Fortune.com reported a few months ago that at least 100,000 businesses in the US have permanently shut down due to the pandemic. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, just last month, reported that about 181,000 Canadian businesses could be shut permanently due to COVID-19, in addition to the nearly 60,000 Canadian businesses that became inactive in 2020. The number of affected businesses rises sharply if you consider numbers across the globe.

Certainly, the economic impact of COVID-19 on individuals, households, and many businesses, especially leisure, travel, and the hospitality industry, cannot be overstated. It gets even more alarming when we consider that roughly about a year into the pandemic, thousands of businesses are still temporarily shut, and for some of these businesses, these closures will become permanent, leading to bankruptcy and millions more layoffs. 

Even with the hope and promise of an effective vaccine and millions of people already vaccinated around the world, the only way for countries and businesses to get back on track will be to get employees into work safely and without retaliation on COVID-19 concerns. However, many employees are afraid of returning to work for fear of contracting COVID-19 from co-workers as well as the uncertainty of the adequacy of safety precautions taken by employers to protect them while at work. 

New Executive Order for Safety in the Workplace

Since returning workers safely to their workplace in some capacity is one of the key factors to restarting and reviving the economy, just a day after being sworn in, President Biden signed an “Executive Order on Protecting Workers’ Health and Safety”, directing the federal government to immediately adopt stronger safety guidelines to reduce the risk of workers contracting COVID-19 while in the workplace. The executive order mandated for the federal government to issue science-based guidelines like mask-wearing to reduce exposure to COVID-19, partner with state and local governments to protect public workers, enforce health and safety requirements for workers, and provide increased employer resources for employee safety. 

This is a positive step toward providing guidelines for companies on how to protect their workers as well as an assurance to workers that they will be adequately protected when they do return to the workplace. 

The executive order also mandated the Secretary of Labor and the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health to act within two weeks to: 

  1. Provide revised guidance to employers on workplace safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  2. Determining whether temporary emergency measures like wearing masks are needed in the workplace, and if so, issue a guidance by March 15, 2021.
  3. Review the current effort of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and identify any changes that can increase protection of workers and ensure this is enforced equitably. 
  4. Focus OSHA’s COVID-19 enforcement efforts on violations that put the greatest number of workers at risk.
  5. Along with local OSHA offices and other local labor offices, implement a multilingual outreach campaign on community level to keep workers and their representatives informed of their rights, especially in communities most impacted by the pandemic. 

 

For other category of workers who may be excluded from the general mandate, the executive order also requires that the Secretary of Labor, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, coordinate with states to ensure that their workers covered under section 18 of the OSHA act are protected from COVID-19 under the revised guidance or temporary measures, such as mask-wearing, set forth by OSHA. 

The executive order makes provisions for OSHA to work with state and local governments, which might not have plans that adequately cover workers, as well as partner with local government offices responsible for protecting workers and public employee unions, where applicable, to increase protection against COVID-19 for workers. 

Applicable federal and state agencies, including the Secretaries of Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Energy, will find avenues to ensure the protection of workers not covered under the act to ensure their workplace safety during the pandemic. Similar emergency temporary standards shall also be considered for coal and metal/non-metal mines by the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, and when necessary, issued. 

Updated OSHA Guidelines 

In response to the presidential executive order, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on the 29th of January, updated their guidance by mandating that employers should implement COVID-19 prevention programs in the workplace with recommendations for the best practices to include engaging with workers, union, and other representatives to develop a program that must include: 

  • Conducting a hazard assessment
  • Identifying a combination of measures that limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace
  • Adopting measures to ensure infected or potentially infected workers are separated and sent home
  • Protecting workers against retaliation when they raise COVID-19 related concerns  

 

This updated OSHA guidance, which also provides industry specific guidance and known as the “Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace”, is intended to inform, educate, and guide non-healthcare employers and workers with identifying and reducing risks of COVID-19 exposures and infections. Healthcare and emergency response workers and employees are covered under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance. The new OSHA guidelines also recommend things we know work to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including implementing social distance, installing barriers where physical distance is not possible, suppressing the spread by using face coverings, using personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed, improving ventilation, maintaining good hygiene, and proper cleaning/disinfection. 

Even though OSHA has prepared the guidance for planning purposes and as a basis for employers to identify and reduce risks of COVID-19 exposure and infection in the workplace, implementing this new guidance and determining the appropriate measure to adopt in your business and workplace can be challenging. Though the recommendations are advisory in nature, employers are expected to use this as a basis for identifying and eliminating hazards that can cause death or physical injury to their employees are part of the obligation to provide a safe work environment. Employers are also expected to comply with all safety and health standards and regulations set forth by OSHA or OSHA-approved representative. 

Since the guidance is new and will be updated as COVID-19 evolves, properly implementing all the necessary recommendations can be challenging. If you need to meet the new guidance and remain compliant, SafetyTek, can help you implement health and safety regulations. We have worked with thousands of companies to help them stay compliant. Get in touch with us and let’s see how we can help you. 








What post-COVID-19 vigilance should look like

The COVID-19 pandemic changed workplace operations dramatically. Public safety is the number one priority and while vaccinations help contain the virus from spreading, it is not a clear signal to business owners and management that the pandemic is over.

The reason for this is that while there may be a low risk for community transmission,  if a flare-up of COVID-19 occurs in your workplace, it poses a dangerously high risk to your organization's revenue and ability to operate.

Best practices for post-COVID-19 operations

It is important to have standard operating procedures (SOP) in place to mitigate any risk of workers contracting the virus at work. Here are some best practices on safely operating post-COVID-19: 

  • Clear instructions regarding public and internal principles. What can/can't the organization control and focus on what you can—employee safety, a corporate culture of safety excellence, and an employee experience that's positive.
  • Dial-in on local implementation of the layers of protection like sanitization, social distancing, and mask-wearing while ensuring frequent and transparent communications to re-enforce this policy directly from the top leadership levels. Leaders of organizations should not exempt themselves from the same rules they are placing on staff; this will create a negative feedback loop that will end with staff not adhering to the policy.
  • Detail how the organization will respond to a team member who contracts the COVID-19. For example, how will you detect this before a positive test (I.E. symptom questionnaire)? Will that team member feel supported to tell the truth on volunteering this information, or will they feel scared to lose their job? That psychological safety needs to be there. When they report positive symptoms, what should they do? Do you have a work from home policy? Do they get paid sick leave? Direct them to know what to do if they are not well enough to work with others. Enable them to continue tracking their symptoms even after they start isolating or working alone so that you have a track record of risk.  We can't control the external environment, so we need to focus on what we can and mitigate risk where we can't.
  • There should also be clear direction given for when it is safe to re-enter the workplace. If they just had a cold and a negative test, should they return to work? How will they know to make that decision?

 

If your organization can confidently respond to all of the above, then you are well on your way to continue operating in a post-COVID-19 world. Stay resilient and vigilant because as we let our guard down, COVID will step in.

You may be struggling with COVID-19 employee self-assessments or questionnaires as required for compliance in most states. It's difficult to determine a proper best practice between local, municipal, state, and federal guidelines!

If you're collecting information manually or without immediate symptom notifications, there's a much better way.

Contact us today on how we can help. 

 

wearing face masks at work

Toolbox Talk: Wearing face masks to protect against disease

As defined by the CDC, masks are a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and land on other people. They protect against coughing, sneezing, talking, or when people raise their voices. It is known as source control and is all based on what we know about respiratory spray and the spread of the viruses such as COVID-19, paired with developing evidence from clinical studies that determine masks decrease the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. 

 Face masks are particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is challenging to maintain. Employees working by themselves may remove the mask when machines are elevated and outside contact with any other person. If the employee gets within 6ft or less of another person, such as someone entering the machine platform, the mask must be worn to avoid exposure.

Here are common questions you can address about wearing face masks at a Toolbox Talk 

  • When should you wear a mask? Whenever you're in crowded situations, at the supermarket, in shops and anywhere indoors or outdoors where you're likely to contact people. On the job, wear a face covering over your nose and mouth. If you perform a task requiring a respirator, face shield, or equivalent PPE according to safety guidelines, wear the appropriate PPE. A cloth face covering or surgical mask is not a replacement for a respirator or face shield when one is required.
  • How should it fit? Masks need to have a snug fit to be useful. It needs to be reasonably snug to block droplets coming out of your mouth and nose.
  • Who shouldn't wear a mask? There is an exception for younger children; there are also exemptions for some people with health conditions or disabilities and those who assist them. As an example, if you are hearing impaired and rely on lip-reading, you're companions may not wear a mask. If you feel shortness of breath or that you're overheating by wearing the mask, feel free to remove your face covering when no one is closer than 6ft and remember to do this as you believe is necessary.
  • How many times can you wear a disposable mask? These masks should only be used once. In comparison, a cloth mask can have a better fit and can be reused as many times as needed.
  • Which mask is best? The FFP3 respirator masks provide the maximum protection for the wearer. This mask is generally much more than what is needed, and they are in limited supply. For the public, experts advise cloth masks, preferably with any tightly woven fabric. Avoid masks with holes in them for ventilation.
  • What steps should you take before touching your mask? Medical advice says to clean your hands before placing your mask on. When you take your mask off, use the straps rather than the fabric. Try to avoid touching the mask area.
  • How should I store or carry a mask? The chance of picking up an infection from your mask is low; you'll still want to keep it as clean as possible. It is recommended to store your mask in a plastic bag to ensure that it is secluded from everything else. Alternatively, wrap it in some fabric.
  • How often should you wash your mask? Ideally, it would be best to wash your mask after every use in the laundry's hot temperature setting. The world health organization advises boiling your face masks for one minute if it has been hand washed in room temperature water.