Employers can take some basic steps to reduce the risk of worker exposure to coronavirus in their workplace.
The Department of Labor has issued general and specific guidelines, but the key recommendation is to make a plan immediately.
“Employers who have not prepared for pandemic events should prepare themselves and their workers as far in advance as possible of potentially worsening outbreak conditions,” the federal officials urge. They warn: “Lack of continuity planning can result in a cascade of failures.”
Here are critical steps to take:
First, identify as best you can how workers might be exposed to the virus, including through the general public, customers, coworkers and others who are either sick or are at high risk of infection. Then consider your workers’ individual risk factors.
Emphasize basic infection prevention measures: washing hands; not sharing phones, desks or other equipment; regular cleaning of the site; and offering flexible work hours.
Allow employees to stay home to care for themselves or a sick family member. Listen to your workers’ concerns about pay, leave, safety, health and job security.
Occupational safety and health professionals stress that “the best way to control
a hazard is to systematically remove it from the workplace rather than relying on workers to reduce their exposure.”