The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to make adjustments to the ‘new normal’, particularly those tasked with the safety and wellbeing of staff. As markets reopen from lockdown and employees return to work, facility managers are under great pressure to ensure that necessary protective measures are in place.
To minimize exposure and create a safe working environment, the following guidelines are recommended as the country returns to work.
New safety protocols and procedures
Preparation is key to stopping the spread of the coronavirus. In their Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 document, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines the following measures to mitigate the infection rate and promote staff safety in the workplace:
- Staff, customers, and worksite visitors must be encouraged to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. Facility managers should provide alcohol-based hand rubs of at least 60% alcohol if soap and running water are not readily available.
- Staff should feel obliged to stay at home if they are feeling ill, or are presenting any of the following symptoms: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue.
- Social distancing should be adhered to, and employees discouraged from using their peers’ phones, workspaces, or other implements and equipment.
- Employers should look into ways of implementing staggered shifts and remote working to limit physical contact in the workplace.
- Maintain rigorous cleaning practices by regularly disinfecting surfaces and equipment.
- Designate rooms for temporary quarantine should employees be suspected of having/or presenting symptoms of COVID-19.
OSHA also recommends implementing the “hierarchy of controls” framework, which is used by occupational safety and health professionals to control workplace hazards. These include:
- Putting up physical barriers and partitions, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
- Introducing high-efficiency air filters and increasing ventilation in the working environment.
- Donning personal protective equipment (PPC) such as gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks (depending on the level of hazard the employee is exposed to in the workplace).
Safety equipment maintenance and emergency training
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), there are approximately 10,000 cardiac arrests in the workplace annually in the United States. So, in addition to preparing the workplace for COVID-19 infection prevention, facility managers need to ensure that existing medical equipment is maintained and certain staff are trained for emergencies, such as cardiac events where automated external defibrillators (AEDs) may be needed.
When physical contact is discouraged, this complicates matters. Thankfully, resources are available to assist facility managers in equipment maintenance and training during the pandemic.
The AHA has issued interim CPR guidelines, in which ‘hands-only’ resuscitation and face coverings are advised. Rescuers should consider using an AED if available, as these devices aren’t believed to release aerosol particles. You can read the AHA’s full recommendations here.
While facility managers aren’t legally obligated to have AEDs on-site, they can face legal consequences should a cardiac arrest occur in the workplace and the AED doesn’t function properly. In our recent article, AED inspections — the way forward in the ‘new normal’, we offer guidance on equipment maintenance and emergency response in the COVID-19 era. Technology is available — like the ZOLL AED 3® defibrillator — that allows for remote AED inspection and maintenance with WiFi and cloud connectivity. This limits unnecessary site visits from technicians for equipment maintenance.
Solidarity in times of need
As the pandemic unfolds, we need to ensure that we are doing all we can to stop the spread of the virus. This is why PlusTrac™ is committed to helping facility managers implement the correct protocols and procedures during these uncertain times. If you’d like further assistance or guidance on setting up and maintaining an optimal AED program, contact a PlusTrac™ consultant today.