Employee Safety During COVID-19 | PART 3: Communication & Training
Updated: Mar 17
COVID-19 isn't going away any time soon. In fact, many experts predict an uptick in cases this winter. Although much is still unknown about combating COVID-19, it is clear that businesses should consider several basic courses of action in preparing, implementing, and managing an employee safety plan.
Part 3 of our series on employee safety during the coronavirus era provides guidelines for communication and employee safety training.
CLICK HERE to read Part 1: Physical Distancing.
CLICK HERE to read Part 2: Promoting Wellness.
1. Plan communications carefully.
Employees returning to work on-site will likely be concerned about the risk of being exposed to Covid-19 and bringing the virus home to family members. The company should address these concerns directly, through frequent communications about the precautions the organization is implementing to keep them safe.
For example, if the company increases housekeeping practices to help prevent Covid-19 transmission—perhaps including more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, equipment, and other elements of the work environment—explain these enhanced practices to employees. Keep in mind that visual cues can help assure employees that the premises are safe. These may include dashboards showing cleaning schedules or daily cleaning status, as well as colored wristbands that indicate every employee on-site has completed pre-entry screening. Transparency regarding the organization’s new guidelines for sanitization will aid in bolstering employee confidence.
A well-designed communication strategy is also crucial in explaining policies such as screening measures. Employers need to have clear processes in place for delivering information during a rapidly evolving situation—both for employees who return to the workplace and for those who continue to work remotely. Additionally, managers need to be equipped with a toolkit that explains new corporate policies and how they should address Covid-related workforce issues.
What, how, and when the organization communicates will be critical to creating and maintaining a safe working environment for employees, contractors, and visitors. All communications should convey caring, should be tied to the organization’s mission, and should be easy to access in one place. Consider sharing, in advance, the company’s return-to-the-workplace plan or playbook, which should describe what the organization is doing to keep employees safe, as well as explaining the role employees play in maintaining a safe work environment.
Communication platforms may include signs, videos, text messages, emails, newsletters, toolbox talks, and/or other media. In addition to the general messaging that reaches the broader employee group, consider whether segmented and tailored messaging makes sense for any specific subsets of workers who may need additional, more detailed information based on their role. Calibrate the frequency of communications on specific topics to ensure an appropriate cadence.
2. Provide training.
To keep the workplace safe for all, employees will have to adhere to new policies and procedures. Thus, once the management team has established a Covid-19 return-to-the-workplace plan for each location, and they have taken measures to prepare each of those workplaces, the company will need to establish a training plan that prepares employees for their new working environment.
Here are some topics for a training curriculum that can help organizations bring employees back to the workplace safely. Consider making such training courses mandatory.
General information about the Covid-19 virus
Explanation of how Covid-19 spreads
Symptoms of Covid-19
What to do if you feel ill, whether at work or at home
Emphasis on need to stay home if sick
General information on reporting suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, along with how that information will be handled by the organization, including the level of detail potentially disclosed to other workers
Employee Safety Training
Explanation of physical distancing measures and contact reduction how-to
General information about PPE
Respiratory etiquette, including covering coughs and sneezes
Importance of frequent and thorough hand washing
Information on contact tracing (if available)
Guidance on work-related travel and interactions with clients, customers, and vendors
Possible restrictions on workforce shifts due to curfew orders or other government regulations
Considerations around the transportation of employees to and from work
Any changes in the employee benefits package, such as an increase in the number of days for paid sick leave
Discouragement of using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible
3. Create a feedback loop.
Raising employee awareness of the organization’s Covid-19 response is a fundamental element of any return-to-the-workplace plan. However, it’s not enough to just explain entry requirements for employees and visitors, or to list available training courses. Organizations should also consider facilitating an avenue through which employees can provide feedback and ask questions, using such methods as surveys and regular team check-ins.
The risk that someone will contract Covid-19 in the workplace has the potential to become a distraction, but companies can mitigate that threat through frequent two-way communication. An organization’s return-to-the-workplace orientation should reaffirm the management team’s concern for employee safety and welfare, and should review key safety hazards inherent in any new operations. This will increase employee confidence and serve as a means of re-establishing the organization’s emphasis on occupational safety.
The Boss Insurance Group is committed to helping our customers keep their employees safe. If you have any questions, contact your Boss Insurance Group insurance advisor.
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