The face of worksite safety has dramatically changed over the last few months and employers everywhere are scrambling to keep up. While plenty of safety protocols have been made available to employers, not all apply outside of an office-type setting.
We understand that many of our clients are in special situations. Many work in remote locations, have worksites in operation 24-hours a day, and have job requirements that include operation procedures that go against some Covid-19 related protocols.
We know you are doing your best to help ‘flatten the curve’ and we want to help you in every way that we can. Our team has put together some basic worksite safety tips to combat Covid-19 for all you remote workers out there who are looking for more realistic ways to adapt. Don’t forget to keep an eye out over the coming weeks as we will be releasing even more tips!
Worksites should be adapting a zero tolerance policy when it comes to Covid-19 exposure.
This means any employees exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19, including (but not limited to) a cough, sore throat, sneezing or fever, should be immediately removed from the worksite and sent home to isolate. These employees should not return to the workplace until they have been isolated for the required two-week period and symptoms are no longer present, or they have been cleared by a medical professional and can provide documented proof.
This also includes requiring employees to report any potential exposures to Covid-19, both directly and indirectly. This is where things can get tricky and employers should ensure that all employees understand what “directly or indirectly” means. Exposure does not only mean they have travelled recently or shook hands with someone who has been positively diagnosed, it also includes the risk of exposure when it comes to their spouses, roommates, and even children and the people they interact with. For example, if someone on your spouse’s work shift has been diagnosed, anyone your spouse has been in contact with— including you—is now also considered at risk until cleared by a medical professional.
Covid-19 can go completely undetected for two-week periods before symptoms begin to show, which is a major part of what makes it so dangerous and has allowed it to spread so easily. The only way for work sites to protect employees as a whole is to abide by a zero-tolerance policy.
Covid -19 Training
In order to enforce a zero-tolerance policy, you must also be sure to educate your employees as to what Covid-19 is—the severity of it, how it spreads and what symptoms look like. While the information is readily available, false information has also been rampant across the country. Make sure your employees understand what your expectations are and why they are important during this time.
Ensure all staff know how and when to report possible cases, as well as any breaches of procedure. This includes training Superintendents (and others responsible for documenting on-site issues) in the proper procedures to be used. During this time, documenting worksite personnel should be meticulous, especially on sites with multiple crews coming in and out. Once a case of Covid-19 has been reported, these documents will be used to identify all personnel who have come in contact with that individual and, as such, are extremely important.
Safety Officers should also be educated on the proper procedures for notifying Worksafe and other required governing bodies (this can vary from province to province), as well as the proper investigation protocols.
All new policy and procedure changes should be made clear to every employee and contractor who comes onto the work site. It is recommended to have signage on clear displays throughout the worksite as a reminder to these changes.
We understand that wearing medical gloves and N-95 masks are not possible in all work situations. Gloves tear easily, and N-95 masks are not always safety compliant or durable enough for all work situations. This doesn’t mean it’s not possible to keep your employees safe.
Where employees are not able to wear gloves, workers must ensure proper disinfecting protocols are being followed. The employer should ensure all work areas have easy access to disinfectant supplies—this could include buckets or spray bottles of bleach water—which can be used to disinfect work areas and tools.
We also recommend employers provide personal hand sanitizer to all employees on site, and ensure they are used often throughout the day. In addition, accessible wash stations should be available near all work areas.
Workers must avoid touching their faces, whether gloves are worn or not, and should be informed of the proper use, maintenance, and disposal procedures for gloves and masks alike.
Whether they are single or multi-use gloves, once they have been used to touch a potentially contaminated surface they MUST be changed. The use of gloves are not only to protect the individual wearing them, but also those who work around them. If, for example, a worker fails to change their gloves after pumping gas into their vehicle, then everything they touch afterwards will now be at risk of contamination, including the interior of the vehicle as well as any tools, door knobs, and so on until their gloves are changed.
Employees should be educated on the proper methods of removing PPE such as gloves and masks to avoid possible contact with contaminated portions. Employees should ensure all used PPE is either immediately disposed of properly or is placed safely in a bag for transportation to be cleaned.
While medical-grade masks are not required, it is highly recommended that all individuals wear a fabric face-covering. The CDC has provided information on what is acceptable here, as well as information on how to make your own masks at home.
At the end of every shift, workers must wash all used (multi-use) gloves, masks, and clothes worn throughout the day (this includes items such as high-vis vests). Research has shown that Covid-19 can live on clothing and other surfaces for extended periods of time, so proper washing each day is a necessity. Workers who reuse gloves, masks, and clothing without washing them beforehand are at a much higher risk of becoming infected.