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WELL-BEING AND COMMUNITY

Strategies to Safely Return to the Workplace

June 24, 2020

When you return to your worksite, you may have concerns about your safety. That is normal in an ever-changing environment. If you feel uncertain about what you need to do, here are a few things to consider.
 
Organizations of all sizes are looking at a variety of possible health and safety scenarios to protect you and other employees, such as:1
 
  • Rearranging workspaces or customer spaces. Spacing desks or tables further apart and changing open seating plans to cubicles. Adding desk shields or partitions.
  • Closing cafeteria areas, public restrooms and lunchrooms and discouraging shared desks, phones, offices and equipment.
  • Limiting business travel and requiring videoconferencing or telework.
  • Rotating four- or five-day shifts or alternating working remotely with working in the office. Staggering start and stop work times and schedules. Continuing work-at-home policies for a prolonged period.
  • Conducting daily health checks and taking temperatures of employees and visitors or installing thermal scanners.
  • Providing personal protective equipment.
  • Altering air-conditioning and ventilation systems to meet new CDC guidance to improve filtration and reduce recirculation.
  • Opening windows, if possible, for better air circulation.
  • Implementing policies for social distancing.
  • Setting strong cleaning standards and practices.
 
Your state, city or community may have new or updated guidelines in place for workplace health and safety. That information is usually posted on the websites.
 
Learn what measures your workplace is taking
Asking about your company’s plans for safety precautions can help ease any discomfort about returning to work and staying healthy:
 
  • Most companies will share any return-to-work plans, workplace policy changes or business contingency plans so you know what to expect.
  • You can always reach out to your management or human resources representative to find out your company’s COVID-19 policies and return-to-work safety measures.
 
Keep yourself safe in the workplace
These COVID-19 health and hygiene habits adopted over the last few months will also help protect your health at work:2
 
  • Wash your hands often. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If that is not an option, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. You should wash before and after shifts and breaks, after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze, after you use the restroom, before and after preparing food and after you put on or remove a cloth face covering.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands or gloves.
  • Recognize personal risk factors. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that if you are an older adult or have an ongoing condition, including diabetes, cancer, smoking, heart, liver or lung disease, you are at higher risk of developing more serious complications from COVID-19. You should discuss any risk factors with your employer.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are sick.
 
Your employer may set up frequent worksite cleanings and provide personal cleaning supplies and any needed protective equipment. If not, you can usually bring your own supplies, including a face covering, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes. Also try to follow preventive measures that make you feel more comfortable, like social distancing. Be sure to ask your employer what is allowed at work.
 
Taking steps to learn all you can and to adjust your personal hygiene habits and work routine for less risk is a great way to continue to protect your health in this pandemic.
 
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers Responding to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), May 2020 (May 5, 2020): cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/guidance-business-response.html#more-changes.
2 The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): COVID-19 Control and Prevention (accessed June 5, 2020): osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/controlprevention.html.

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