The pandemic isn’t over, but we are going back to work, and that means a series of new processes and procedures are needed to protect employees and keep the doors open. We wrote recently about the importance of proper site entry and workplace compliance. By identifying potentially sick employees before they enter the facility and maintaining strict protocols on the floor, you can reduce the risk of an outbreak. 

But it doesn’t stop there. What happens if there is an outbreak anyways? Coronavirus, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, can be present for up to two weeks before symptoms occur, and an estimated 5-25% of all cases are asymptomatic – meaning employees could be carrying and potentially spreading the disease without knowing it. While your workplace compliance protocols will help to reduce the risk of spread in these situations, you need to be prepared for illness. There are likely months ahead of us before a vaccine will be ready. You can’t let one asymptomatic person turn into an outbreak that closes your business. 

That’s why monitoring is so important. Proper monitoring of employees using wireless technology can provide a map of employee locations and interactions that can be audited in the event of illness, allowing you to pinpoint hotspots for closure and quarantine instead of the entire floor. 

Establishing Isolation Protocols for Sick or Exposed Employees

For monitoring to be effective, you need a plan in place to isolate employees if they do start to show symptoms at work. Ideally, someone is directly in charge of this effort – a health and safety leader, HR manager, or supervisor on the team who can be directly responsible if someone exhibits symptoms and needs to be immediately isolated from the rest of the workforce. 

At the same time, protocols need to be in place for how to handle such a situation, including:

  • A means by which someone can remotely self-report symptoms when they start. 
  • A means by which employees can report symptoms they observe in one another. 
  • A location where isolated employees can go and information gathered before they are sent home. 
  • A process for disinfection of the employee’s work station and the isolation room used when removing them from the floor. 

To comply with reporting requirements, it’s important to capture basic information about the symptomatic employee, including the specific symptoms identified, the time they started, where they worked, and who they were working with. Fortunately, technology can make this easier by streamlining much of the process and capturing some data automatically. If a suspected case of COVID-19 is identified, follow the below steps to minimize the disruption:

  1. Once identified, the Isolation Coordinator must direct the suspected infected employee to go directly to the designated isolation room for their area, by the most direct route.
  2. Once there, the Isolation Coordinator must immediately provide them with a mask and nitrile gloves. Explain to them that it is to help protect other employees and prevent the spread of a potential virus.
  3. The Isolation Coordinator, and anyone else attending the suspected infected person, should also wear a protective mask and nitrile gloves.
  4. The Isolation Coordinator must call the local health authority or medical office to seek advice regarding transportation and location.
  5. The Isolation Coordinator should direct the employee to leave work and go home or to the nearest health center as advised by the local health authority. Public transportation should not be used.

Effective Monitoring of Employee Symptoms and Location on the Job

Effective monitoring is a three-stage process. It involves:

  1. Measures to monitor and screen staff and visitors before entering the workplace. 
  2. Clearly defined self-quarantining and return to work protocols.
  3. Reliable records indicating work station access and employees exposed to an employee who is symptomatic.

To ensure all three of these stages are followed for your staff, the following procedures should be implemented. 

Pre-shift Screening 

Review our recent post on proper site entry for additional information about the proper procedures for pre-shift screening for all employees and visitors to the facility. Additionally, make sure measures have been taken to prevent anyone from entering the facility without going through the screening protocol. 

Monitor Employee Status

Using an app like Safely Pass, monitor and track temperature readings, any observations of overt symptoms, and verbal/non-verbal confirmation of daily self-screening for all employees. By doing this digitally, it is possible to maintain records and more easily review the data if needed in the future. 

Identify Potential Exposure 

If an employee was symptomatic and sent home due to a suspected case of COVID-19, several additional steps should be taken in the facility including:

  • Identifying anyone who was in contact with the suspected infected employee. These employees should self-screen every morning and report any symptoms immediately while also contacting their primary care physician. 
  • Ensure that any areas the employee was in are cleaned and disinfected immediately. Staff or contract personnel wearing PPE should thoroughly wipe down the workstation, isolation area, and any other locations in the facility that the suspected sick employee interacted with. 

Through proper monitoring, you can minimize unnecessary interaction between employees, track visual clues of infection daily, and quickly react if a case is suspected. By combining self-reporting with external monitoring, you reduce the risk of missing a suspected case and can reduce the impact on your facility when a case is identified. 

Learn more about the role of monitoring and site entry control in our Ultimate ‘How to Work Safely’ Playbook. Download your copy here:

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