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Preparing Workplaces Amid COVID-19

Jun 9, 2020 7:30:00 AM

COVID-19 is still prevalent, but as restrictions begin to ease and stay-at-home orders loosen for most of the country, employers are starting to welcome their employees back into the workplace. Even though many people are itching to get out of their homes (even if it is to go back to work), employers need to exercise cautious optimism. Having employees back in the workplace offers new risks for employers — specifically lawsuits. Below you’ll find information on the steps your business can take to protect your employees and your business from any COVID-19 related harm.

OSHA Guidelines

There are a handful of companies that are doing everything they can to screen employees before and after they enter the workplace. But according to OSHA suggested guidelines, that isn’t enough to protect your employees.

Develop a Preparedness and Response Plan

If your company doesn’t already have a plan in place, now is the time to create one. First, check out federal and local guidelines on how to prevent and handle an outbreak. Then create prevention measures within your own workplace. These should include:

  • Encourage frequent hand washing
  • Encourage employees who feel ill to stay home
  • Teach and encourage employees to properly cover their nose and mouth when they sneeze or cough
  • Explore flexible worksites (work from home options)
  • Stagger work shifts
  • Discourage employees from sharing equipment (phones, desks, etc.)

If someone in your workplace starts to exhibit physical signs of sickness, prompt identification and isolation of the ill individual is key. To do this, employers and employees should do the following:

  • Encourage employees to self-monitor
  • Employers should develop a policy for reporting when an employee is experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms
  • Give ill employees facemask, and isolate them (in a spare conference room or office) or ask them to go home (or work from home when applicable)
  • Restrict the number of employees in “isolation areas”

To further implement protections for employees, more flexibility with schedules and sick leave should be strongly considered:

  • Encourage sick employees to stay home
  • Don’t require a doctor’s note to use sick leave
  • Be flexible with employees who care for sick family members
  • Be aware of employees with concerns over sick leave, pay and personal safety

Training your employees and providing them with as much educational material as possible about new procedures and new work-health guidelines is key in protecting your employees. You can find a complete list of OSHA guidelines here.

Protection from Potential Lawsuits

While protecting your employees is the most important aspect of having your workforce return to the office, businesses should also think about potential liability lawsuits by having employees return to the office.

In American Fork, Utah, a company was sued by a former employee over safety concerns with how the employer handled its staff during the pandemic. These types of lawsuits are happening all over the country. Businesses need to be aware, and take the necessary steps to seek protection from liability.

Liability Agreement

One of the ways that employers can protect themselves is having employees sign a liability agreement that protects the employer from liability in the event that a staff member contracts COVID-19 at the workplace. That is not to say that this is the end-all-be-all for protection — your business should still implement proper safety and guidelines listed above, but it can be an added layer of protection for your company to avoid legal repercussions.This is especially important because an end user can even potentially sue, for instance, a security dealer or central monitoring station because of disruption in services due to an infected employee stopping services.

A stellar example of how a central station alarm monitoring company adapted to these guidelines to protect employees is AvantGuard Monitoring Centers. AvantGuard kept employees safe and complied with UL virtual workplace guidelines in preparation for COVID-19. AvantGuard always puts its employees and customers safety F.I.R.S.T.

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