Issue 99 - May 2020
Safe Return to the Workplace
By Paul Zeglovitch, Liability Program Manager and Alex Mellor, Senior Risk Manager
As local government agencies across California have temporarily altered operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, employee work lives have changed. Some employees quickly adopted telework postures and working from home environments. Some have continued working at city hall and other administrative offices that are largely closed to the public, while others such as public safety and public works staff have continued to provide essential services in close proximity to the public. And ultimately, the impact of the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced layoffs and furloughs of local government employees.
As California continues to progress through the state’s COVID-19 Resilience Roadmap, members are considering how to return employees to the workplace.
To assist with this effort, the Authority is making available a COVID-19 Exposure Control Plan template which provides a framework for achieving social distancing, regular cleaning and disinfection of facilities, use of face coverings, as well as other important workplace considerations. Members can download the document via the online “Library,” located in the “Resources” section of the Authority’s website.
In addition to these items, other less apparent factors should also be considered. Authority staff recently participated in a webinar entitled Getting People Back to Work, Safely presented by insurance broker, Gallagher Bassett. During the webinar, the following suggestions were made:
- Consider returning management and supervisory staff in advance of line staff for the purpose of orientation to the agency’s Exposure Control Plan and applicable safety programs. For example, new cleaning solutions introduced into the workplace for the purpose of killing coronavirus trigger an obligation to educate employees regarding the hazards of these chemicals.
- Encourage supervisors to closely observe employees upon return and positively reinforce compliance with the agency’s Exposure Control Plan. Likewise, non-compliance and other negative behaviors should be immediately addressed.
- Consider the effect of the pandemic on employee mental health. Reorient supervisors to the agency’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and encourage them to share this important resource with their staff.
- Consider a physical and mental “work hardening” approach. Employees may not have the capacity to return to pre-pandemic productivity levels immediately. A gradual ramping up of duties and responsibilities prioritizes employee physical and mental health and reduces the likelihood of workers’ compensation claims. This is particularly important for employees who are returning to perform heavy physical work.
- Consider that policies, programs, and procedures related to COVID-19 may need to be tailored to different employee populations. For example, public safety and public works staff may not be able to practice social distancing in the same manner as administrative staff. Every policy, program, and procedure should include a certain amount of flexibility to account for this.
Members can access a recording of the Gallagher Bassett webinar mentioned above at the following link: https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/2323334/F8608A6BB99EAE85E4E3621ECC81FB95firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have additional questions, please contact your assigned Risk Manager.< Back to Full Issue Print Article