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Safety Expert Shares Secrets on Effectively Returning to Work

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September 29, 2020

How can you effectively reopen the workplace and make your employees feel safe while doing so? 

If reopening is already in the works for your organization or if you’re just starting the planning process, you don’t want to miss our Engage by Cell webinar with Trish Ennis, an expert in safety and risk management with decades of experience. 

Trish reviewed the key elements of returning safely and effectively to work. Plus, we introduced our brand new safety suite of mobile products that’s custom-made for minimizing risk in the office.

You’ll walk away from the webinar with at least five great suggestions to make your employees feel comfortable and improve the safety of your workplace.




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Full Transcript

Dave Asheim  0:00  :  My name is Dave Asheim and I have a great speaker Trish who is joining us today and Trish will tell you all about herself in a second. This webinar will last 30 to 40 minutes based on questions. We do not want this to be a boring session. So we would love for you folks to start thinking about your questions. We have four different sections we're going to be reviewing from. What do you do now, to communication, to some legal issues and safety protocols. So don't hesitate. Let's make this as chatty as possible. When you write your question out choose all panelists and attendees. Trish and I are recording this webinar. We'll send you a link tomorrow. We have a few slides, but it's basically a discussion among us. So we'll send you all the link tomorrow and why don't we move on and have Trish explain a little bit about her background. And we are so lucky to have found Trish as our speaker. So Trish, tell us a little bit about what you know about this field and what your profession is all about.

Trish Ennis  1:17    :  Okay. Well, thanks, Dave. I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the webinar. Nice to have so many people jump on board. So I am currently serving as the Executive Director for the Colorado Safety Association. And you can see the slide has a few bullet points about my bio. We are a small nonprofit safety training and consulting organization. And we've been in business for 50 to 53 years. So in that role, I work with lots of different companies who are clients, members, community, lots of non members as well. And in the state of Colorado, but we've got a few members outside of the state of Colorado. Um, my background really, I started work as a safety professional on a Superfund site. That's not really how you're supposed to start, you know, that's more jobs you kind of grow into, but I jumped into the fire. So I was on a Superfund site, then I went to work for a contractor. From there, I went to work in the insurance industry. Then I left for three years and went to work as the Director of Workplace Safety at Denver Zoo, that was a blast. And went back to the insurance industry for a while and then landed here at CSA. So over a 30 year period I've had multiple different industries and committees to work with clients. Along that journey, I became a volunteer leader with the American Society of Safety Professionals. They're 38,000 members globally, and was their 100th president. So got to travel the world and speak to groups all around the world on behalf of the society. And I'm currently now serving as the foundation chair for ASSP. And that's their scholarship and grant arm of the nation. So we do education grants and things work with colleges and universities to build curriculum. So that's fun. So that's, that's kind of my background.

Dave Asheim  3:21    :  I love it. And we'll send all of you Trish's bio, and some links to emails and phone numbers. Here is their mission like Trish was talking about. All right, Molly. Yeah, some of the key things you folks do.

Trish Ennis  3:44    :  We just had our first conference virtually this year. So I know a lot of people are trying to navigate that whole transition from live to virtual.

Dave Asheim  3:55    :  My name is Dave Asheim. I don't have the experience that Trish does in the safety world, but I have quite a bit of experience in technology and mobile services. We've been working for the last 10 years or so with HR departments and training departments, and also museums and nonprofits and a wide range of organizations. And we provide lots of different mobile solutions from text messaging to mobile giving to mobile apps. And so many of our clients when COVID hit, came to us and said, "Can I use these tools to send text messages to my employees or my clients?" Or "Can I use some of these mobile tools to disseminate information?" So about a month or two ago, we packaged these up, and we have a whole suite of safety solutions that can use our mobile services. This webinar today is not about that at all. At the end of the webinar, I'll show you a few examples. And we'll send you information about that. But that connects us to this world of safety. And we are doing everything we can to help our clients better interact and engage and get the word out. And mobile, like these three people here is one very effective way to do it. Because when you send somebody a text message, their phone buzzes, and they go right in and they can read it and take action. All right, so let's dive into this. So we're going to talk about these points. The first section is all about how do I decide what to do regarding reopening? So all of you in the chat window, this is your assignment. Let us know some of your questions so that Trish and I we're keeping an eye on the chat, can address your specific questions, because this webinar is designed as a framework, but it's really to answer all of your questions. And then we'll go into how to communicate and some safety protocols and then legal issues, which of course, is a real thorn for everybody. So we will start it off about the decision regarding reopening. So, Trish, when you are asked about the question: when should I reopen? It's one of these questions, you could spend hours just trying to address that. What's the first thing that comes to your mind in terms of advice that you would like to offer folks, when they're saying you know what, I think we need to get back to work somehow. What are the recommendations and the things that you're thinking about?

Trish Ennis  6:42    :  So taking the step to reopen can be a difficult step to take, because there's a lot of work that has to happen upfront. And so typically, what I advise people to do is, is engage their employees in the decision to some extent, and have conversations with them to say, what do we need to have in place for people to feel safe to come back to work? What do we need to be able to accomplish when we come back to work? What will our facility accommodate? How much is that going to cost? If we have to do enhanced cleaning, maybe it's a manufacturing facility and not an office environment, things like that. So I would say starting with a good checklist of things that you need to have in place before you make the decision to reopen and identify what are the priorities that you need to to have ready. So for us, we are a tenant in a building that is managed by a landlord, and the landlord is also a tenant in this building. And so we had numerous phone calls with the tenants in the building to say, what are your needs? When will you be here? How many people? Does the gate get unlocked? Or not? Is the door locked or not? How's mail going to be delivered? So there's a lot of logistical things that you have to think about when you're going to when you're going to reopen. So I would say having a good list, engaging stakeholders and then getting feedback from your team to see what they feel like they doing.

Dave Asheim  8:13    :  How important is it for you to or for the people on the call to check out what the city and county and their surrounding area is? Because, as we've heard, Idaho, the folks from Idaho, it's very different than the folks from Salt Lake City and the folks from Orlando. So how much should that weigh into it?

Trish Ennis  8:34    :  I think that drives your ability to reopen entirely to some extent. So in the city and county of Denver, we are limited to 50% of our staff in the office right now under an executive order. There are other municipalities in Colorado that have slightly different requirements. And so city and county of Denver right now is 50%. So I have a staff of four, that's pretty easy for me to manage, two of us at a time. We are limited to gatherings of 10 people. And so we're a safety training organization. So eight attendees plus an admin and an instructor basically is how we are structuring ours so you really do have to start, that's an excellent point, with the local jurisdiction. What are the orders and rules around mask wearing number of employees? Are you essential? How do you navigate that? That has to be at the top of the list. Because we've had restaurants here get shut down for opening and violating orders. You don't want to jeopardize your business. Sometimes not opening jeopardizes your business, I get that, and sometimes opening the wrong way also jeopardize. So you have to make an informed decision about that.

Dave Asheim  9:50    :  The tool of staggering either hours or days, how effective is that and that's something that everybody should put in place when they reopen or case by case basis?

Trish Ennis  10:05    :  I think that is entirely driven by the business function. So if you can stagger your days, you know, we have four people. So it's easy for me to jump on a call on Thursday or Friday with my staff and say, Who needs to be in the office on which days and we haggle over who's going to be here. If you have 1000 people, that's not going to work very well. So you may have to schedule for them. At some point, the employee input becomes too much to manage when you're deciding on schedule, right. So I think you have to cover your essential functions first, and then your so your "need to have" and then your "would like to have" next, you know, prioritizing. It's almost like risk assessment, put it in a hierarchy.

Dave Asheim  10:55    :  I would bet and maybe you folks can chat in the chat window, there are probably a lot of organizations that are functioning okay right now, with people working remotely. How important you think it is to, if the numbers are low in my community, to at least begin to get people to come back to work? Or if it's working okay, for your 30, 40, 50 person organization, just wait?

Trish Ennis  11:30    :  I guess my question is what is okay? You know, if you look at some of the statistics around depression and suicide and worker engagement, those depression and suicide numbers are going up, worker engagement numbers are going down. I know organizations where the organization is doing okay, but the individuals who work for the organization are not necessarily doing okay. And I think that has to be part of the consideration is, how do we measure that? And how do we engage and keep tabs on our people to understand that part of that equation, right?

Dave Asheim  12:10    :  And should the HR manager try to reach me? How can that HR manager or CEO or president make that determination? Should they do surveys or polls? Or should they just call people or what? How did they decide? Because you don't want to bring people back to work? Make them commute if there's not a huge need to do that, in a certain circumstance?

Trish Ennis  12:39    :  

I think what I've seen work the best is that the people who are closest to the worker, direct supervisor, they engage and it's almost like building a PTA phone tree, right? You know, when you have a phone tree, you can have people who are just reaching out maybe you implement a buddy system. And you have people have a workmate that they're going to keep tabs on. Looking at, if there's an employee assistance program, making sure you're sending information out to the employees that are touching them. I've been doing a lot of webinars for business partners around the community just to... I did a zoom class on Zentangle, which is basically a drawing class, and just a fun art class. And they're making things like that available for their employees. Like I think just reaching out, touching base, having a communication plan, which kind of jumps into the another topic, but that's part of that is, is having ways to keep tabs, have a hotline, if somebody's struggling, they can send an email and somebody's manning that.

Dave Asheim  13:47    :  There was a question, Trish. You saw it from Ashley about a reopening committee? One of the questions that I've been getting is who should be in the room? In the decision making loop? Because a lot of people have very strong opinions on this. Do you think organizations like Ashley's are right in setting up a committee? Or who can make this decision? What are the people that should be involved in making this decision?

Trish Ennis  14:20    :  So yeah, I mean, that's a challenging question, because you're right, you see every range of emotion about this. So you see people who are angry, who feel that it isn't real and that we shouldn't be subjected to this. You see people who are angry because they're fearful. You see people who are fearful. You see people who are isolated, you see people who are really motivated to get back. So I think having a cross section of people on your committee but having very clear goals to say, this isn't where we air our grievances. This is where we pull together to come up with a viable working plan and picking people, letting people volunteer and vetting them for that. But I would say a cross section of people to do that is good. I think that the people who should be in the decision making loop on the reopening committee are the ones who have that vision for what we need to accomplish. And who can communicate that and get people who are going to wholeheartedly participate, not try to hijack and be hostile. Because that defeats the purpose. So I think also, there was a question about measuring the emotional health of your employees. And that's a hard thing to do. You know, you don't really know unless people are sharing with you. But again, a hotline an employee assistance program. In Colorado, there's a program called Grit. And it's sponsored by the color Department of Public Health and Environment. And people can go through their five hour class and get some coaching, to be a community outreach person to help people deal with the stress of pandemic. So I think tapping into some of those local sort of resources is also a good way to try and keep tabs on your employees.

Dave Asheim  16:13    :  What about preparing the office? We're going to move on to communication in a second, but we can't share cubicles. You and I couldn't share an office really. And some organizations, I know some museums, their staff space is very, very close quarters because they're preserving space for the visitors. What are the things that people should think about before they start bringing people back? Because you just can't bring people back in the way that they came to work in February?

Trish Ennis  16:47    :  Yeah. So I mean, having a cleaning protocol is important. And there are times when people are going to have to share the same space. And so a disinfection cleaning protocol after that, maybe staggering the time. In our computer lab, the computers are staggered, and the tables have been moved apart. And we put screens up between them so when employees come in, they have to wear a mask, maybe a face shield, and then there's a disinfecting protocol that goes into place. And that's part of that opening checklist is can we do that? I'm going to put in the chat, there is a website here. It's called back to worksafely.org. And if you go and look at this website, it's put out by the American Industrial Hygiene Association. And they have been very proactive about building opening guidelines by industry, they have one for gyms, they have one for restaurants, banking, for offices, for daycare centers, and childcare centers, they have one for transportation, there's a whole host of resources that you can look at that give you checklists and suggestions for how to physically reopen and keep the space disinfected, cleaned and safer for employees to come back to work.

Dave Asheim  18:10    :  And you do suggest that whoever is in charge of bringing people back to work, need to redesign the office in some regards? Because if you know a lot of software engineers, for example, they're just sitting at tables, one right next to each other, or across from people. 

Trish Ennis  18:29    :  Yeah. And and that's part of your consideration. If you it's easy to say redesign the workplace, it's much harder to do it. I know there are people here who are in a facility where they may not have the luxury to redesign it or they're in childcare. I've seen some chats, people reach out here, they're interacting with young children, there's going to be issues where you're not going to be able to protect yourself 100%. And that's scary for people. And I understand that it is scary for people. I think the knowledge about how to manage this is also evolving. And so over the nine months that since it was sort of identified to where we are today, there have been a lot of recommendations that have come out and they change. And so people have lost confidence in the recommendations that they're seeing, because of those changes. And I think finding a couple of credible sites that keep up to date information, and recognizing that what we thought six months ago may not be approached today as we learn more about it, that that's something to keep in mind. You know, don't be skeptical, but be healthy in your skepticism. Don't just throw out every piece of advice that's out there because there are some good things out there to look at.

Dave Asheim  19:55    :  And a challenge, I'm sure and maybe some of you can mention it in the chat window, is your view or my view might be very different than my boss's view. Or I'm the HR manager. My boss wants everybody back to work right now. And they don't think that this is a big problem. That's going to create some major challenges for those people that have to try to implement some of these safety protocols. And it's not something you and I can solve, but just addressing that that is going to be an issue. That was interesting. Kathy's note, if you saw that, about renting space off site, what a great idea. Probably there's plenty of space that can be rented for six to 12 months at a low cost. And if it means, like you said, Trish, I just can't reconfigure my office, but we could go rent a big open area and put desks around and put shields around. That might be one way to get people back to work.

Trish Ennis  20:53    :  Right. And, and getting shields, you know, people get fatigued working in personal protective equipment all day long. So if you look at the hierarchy of controls, which is a safety term, can you eliminate the risk and personal protective equipment is the last line of defense for something that you can't otherwise? Are there ways and renting off site and spreading your staff out is certainly one of those. Having half your people work from home is another option. 

Dave Asheim  21:23    :  So one more question. Trish, before we move on to communication. What if an employee just doesn't want to come back to work? Do you say okay, or is there a certain point where maybe not today, but in six or nine months when 50% are back or 75%? are back? What's your recommendation for people on the call when they deal with this?

Trish Ennis  21:46    :  Yeah, that's probably what I see the most, and the issue that we're trying to help people navigate the most. And so some of that comes from fear. Some of it comes from they're fearful, they're fatigued, maybe they didn't like their job to begin with. And this layer of complexity that makes it harder to go back. OSHA says that you can't make someone do the job that they're not comfortable doing because they feel that it's unsafe. You have to somehow accommodate them. So making reasonable accommodation, barricades, shields, screens, cleaning protocol, personal protective equipment, staggering a worksite, all of those best practices that are coming out. And then at some point, you can let people know that, yes, I understand. You don't want to come back to work. And I've done everything I can to accommodate you. Therefore, I cannot. You're free to stay home now. But I don't have to pay you. And so people are losing employees. They may furlough the people who don't want to come back. And maybe that's a job attached to an unemployment situation. Others, you know, you can let them know that you've done what you can to accommodate them, and they can stay home, but you can't guarantee you're going to be able to preserve their job and you don't have to pay them. At least that's a jurisdictional thing to check. But here in Colorado, that's what we're dealing with. It's a tough one.

Dave Asheim  23:19    :  Okay, Molly, let's move on to the next one. Let's talk a little bit about employee communication. Spend five to ten minutes on this one. Trish, how open should the company be regarding everything that's going on? From our plan and our expectations to what you just talked about? Regarding you might lose your job, all the way to somebody has been diagnosed with covid or somebody in their family has been diagnosed. So give us kind of a primer on how how to communicate.

Trish Ennis  24:00    :  So the employee communication plan is much like the reopening plan. The key word here is plan. You should have a plan. And maybe here I'll make a plug for Engage by Cell. Maybe you're going to use a platform like Engage by Cell where you're sending out timely text messages and communications to employees to keep them up to date on what's going on, right? People like to know what's coming down the road for them. And they like to know what their options are. And they'd like to know what their risks are. And so as honest as you can be about, here's how we're trying to do it. Here's what our financial situation is. Here's our top priority and this is how we're going to accomplish that. Ask for some feedback from people, but be as honest as you can. The thing about the exposure, what people will learn is if they don't tell people when there's been an exposure in the workplace, people make it up, someone's not suddenly not at work. And they hear through the rumor mill that something's going on. I worked with a number of cultural facilities, and the cultural facilities here in Colorado, some of them are doing a better job than others about employee communication. And I hear the employees talking about we know this maintenance guy isn't at work now. I heard he was sick. Nobody's told me and I was in contact with them, that just ratchets up the fear. So having enough to give them information without too much detail that you're violating someone's privacy is that fine line that you're treading.

Dave Asheim  25:43    :  So this takes the maintenance man. He's not at work and the HR person talks to that person and they have been diagnosed with covid. Is it right for the HR person to send an email to everybody that's come in contact with that person might have come in contact with that person?

Trish Ennis  26:03    :  I would say yes, to say we have had a potential exposure, it happened in this area, it was a member of the staff, you've been identified as someone who was in this area, monitor yourself, your symptoms, if you want to get a test or whatever. Look at some of the guidelines about how to identify them. One of the other resources I have is this Fisher Phillips document that I shared with you. And it's "Four Common COVID-19 Misunderstandings That Could Place Your Company At Legal Risk". And one of those is talking about how you notify people when there's been an exposure. So I would say getting some legal advice for your local jurisdiction and for how people are navigating this would be one of the sources of information. I would even submit that the Society for Human Resource Managers, the SHRM site might also be a good source for some information on how to handle those notifications.

Dave Asheim  27:14    :  Yeah, I think you're right. This document that Trish is talking about. Here it is, she sent it to us last week, it's really a fabulous four page document. So we will make sure we include a copy of that, this is a public document. And it's really excellent on the legal ramifications. Trish, there's an interesting question from Karen, in that chat, and I was wondering about the same thing. People might feel comfortable coming to work, but they don't want to jump on New York City buses or transit or public transportation. And many of us take public transportation what what to do do companies offered to pay for Uber? Do they try to do rideshare? Or do they just say, well, then don't come into work?

Trish Ennis  28:03    :  Yeah, I mean, you know that's a difficult question. There's not an easy answer to that one. Unfortunately, I would say, if you're looking at an OSHA perspective, getting to work is not the employers purview, you don't have to protect them getting to work. You just have to protect them once they're there. And so from an OSHA perspective, they would say, providing alternative transportation would not be a reasonable accommodation. If you can find alternative ways, that's fine. I would say, accommodating someone to work from home is always the best option. If you can do it, and it works because if they stay home, they don't have the exposure, you're keeping them as an engaged employee. And then maybe your expense there is checking out equipment. You know, one of the clients I'm working with, they check out equipment to them. So somebody wants a second monitor, they check out monitors to them, and they just have to keep track and people can take equipment home. Lots of ergonomic training for home office for people, teaching them how to set up their home office. They are doing things as best they can in the place they have available to them.

Dave Asheim  29:15    :  Yep. Tracy has a question about cleaning. We're going to talk about that in just a second. One or two more questions for Trish. I'm back at work but some of the people in the office are not following what is clearly the protocols and had been communicated. Who's responsible to talk to them and what are the repercussions because that person is not wearing a mask and it's our company procedure in this example, to wear a mask whatever the situation is, how do you how do you handle that?

Trish Ennis  29:49    :  So when you are putting together your reopening and communication plan, you do have to have people who are going to be responsible for executing on that plan, whether it's an superintendent. It's not always advisable to have employees managing employees like peer to peer management. It may work in a behavior-based safety sort of environment, but I find it to not be the most effective because people hesitate to speak up and hold their co-workers accountable for things like that. So there does have to be a plan in place. And if someone is going to refuse to wear their mask and follow the rules, and maybe they're not the person that gets to come back to work. Then that then becomes a safety hazard for other people and it becomes a morale hazard. That has to be managed the same way any other insubordination or failure to follow rules. Issue gets handled in the workplace. 

Dave Asheim  30:50    :  Okay, so over communicate is what Trisha saying. Molly, let's move on to the third topic. The safety protocols, the same kind of question that Tracy was asking in the chat window. What's kind of the checklist that companies need to think about masks and distance? And what is it like a, like a rule set, and then who's in charge of doing the cleaning and these kinds of things, because nobody in the office historically was in charge of disinfecting. So take us through safety protocols.

Trish Ennis  31:28    :  The safety protocols, and again, I would say, look at that backtoworksafely.org posted documents because they have a lot of those in there. But basically, you need to do a facility survey and identify what the needs are going to be before people come back into the office, and then finding professionals who can do that cleaning. So we divided up the cleaning based on employee meetings, and we take turns disinfecting the computer lab with our own PPE, after we've had a class in the lab and the classes required also to wear masks, and to be socially distanced the whole time they're in there. We take their temperature, we do a questionnaire before they come in, all the things that as much as they may help, we have those things in place. There may be in some cases, the building managers, so if you're leasing or renting space, from a landlord, in some cases, those  building operators will have cleaning crews who have stepped up their cleaning. And so asking your landlord or asking if they're paying for the cleaning service to come in, find out what they're using, and if they are stepping up their cleaning. And if not, it's probably the newest industry now is cleaning facilities. I would say if you're going to hire a cleaning service, get references, and make sure you're not just hiring someone who says they're doing something but they're not want to see what products they're using, and have them show you how.

Dave Asheim  33:19    :  I read something in some of your notes about the 6 15 48 analysis and I had not heard of that before. So maybe some of you have heard about that. But what's tell us a little bit about facemasks and, and what's your recommendation from everything that you've read?

Trish Ennis  33:39    :  Right, so the facemask question is a tricky one. You know, there's all kinds of information conspiracy theories, pushback, acceptance, I mean everything about face masks. But basically, if you can reduce the distance that any kind of aerosolized virus will travel by people wearing face masks, that six foot sort of distance. And so basically, that's kind of what they're looking for is slowing the spread, if they're wearing it. And then if they are exposed, that's that 14 day quarantine period that people are looking for. That 16 15 48 analysis is just something that the CDC is kind of looking for, for clarification on this. This came out of the Fisher Phillips docket. So I don't think you know, I'm not sure you know, I think we heard initially before face masks didn't work, then we heard that they're probably the best way to slow the spread. And as countries have gone through their reopening protocol, they're finding that the social distancing and the mask wearing societies are the ones that are recovering the fastest. And so I think that there's some validity to that. The newest information that I'm reading says that surfaces are not as big of a concern as originally thought. So while they still want people cleaning and hand washing, it's primarily respiratory. You know, transmission. So, you know, issues, employees don't want to wear masks. 

Dave Asheim  35:41    :  And if somebody has COVID, and, and has been recovering at home, but after seven days, they get another test, and they're fine. I've read that some organizations were saying, sure, come back to work, and others are saying, No, you really need to be out for 14 days. What's your guidance on that?

Trish Ennis  36:01    :  So with the tests, sometimes it takes a couple of days, after you get a test before you get the results, and if people are not quarantined and isolated in that period of time. So let's say I get a test on Monday, and I get the results on Wednesday. But on Tuesday, I went to the grocery store, what they're saying is that you should be quarantined for a period of time between the test results, and if the result is negative then they're saying, if you've been isolated in that period of time, there may be some leeway to come back to work. But typically, they're saying that you're 10 to 14 days after you've been exposed. And if the test is in that period... the thing about testing that's, that can also be difficult is that the nasal tests are finding virus particles that are dead virus particles. And so you may get a false positive. So I think one of the things that Fisher Phillips talks about in here is returning employees to work too early after a negative test. And it says that if they've been directly exposed to COVID-19, then then they want to have their employees should be quarantined for 14 days since their last direct exposure to a confirmed or suspected. And then if they've been within, that's that 6 15 48, if they've been within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more, within 48 hours of the person showing symptoms, they're saying that they should be quarantined. And it's saying the 14 day quarantine team period cannot because short by a negative test due to the lengthy incubation period of COVID-19. So they have the six the 6 15 48 kind of an exposure and they get a negative test, but the incubation period is 10 days, they may not be showing symptoms, even though they may in fact be positive. So right to back up what I originally said, if you look at this Fisher Phillips, they give you some pretty good guidelines for saying stay in the quarantine period, even with a negative test because you could test negative and still be exposed, in fact, just not testing positive.

Dave Asheim  38:28    :  Yeah. Let's move to legal and compliance and Kathy's question in the chat window is a good segue. From a legal point of view when an employee is showing signs, but just doesn't want to do anything about it, what can the company do and what should they do?

Trish Ennis  38:47    :  So is the one that staff refuses to get a test, right? You know, that's like any other workplace test, I would say, if they're showing symptoms, we are going into flu season, it may not be COVID. But it's also an illness that you don't want spreading in your workplace. So implementing a policy that says I can't require you to get a test but I can require you to stay home until you are 10 to 14 days past symptoms. Or you can put into place a requirement to have a negative test before you're allowed to come back to work. Depending on the jurisdiction you're working in, that may be an allowable, legal, that would be where you would want to talk to the local legal consultant to get advice on that. But there are return to duty testing options that employers have. So you can make them take a test to stay at work. You can send them home. As being even about how you're applying this rule. As with any rule, you don't want to write you don't want to send the hourly worker home because they're symptomatic, but you're letting the CEO stay in the office because he or she is operation, you can't be making those kinds of decisions. You have to be even.

Dave Asheim  40:08    :  

Yep. What are the biggest, confusing parts or misperceptions about the whole legal aspect? And there are a landmine of things that people could kind of step on here. But what are the what are some of the big challenges that all of us face from a legal point of view that we don't really want to step over?

Trish Ennis  40:33    :  Yeah, well, not being an attorney, even I don't even play one on TV. So I'm not sure. I think, from a legal perspective, it's not doing our due diligence to manage safety hazards in the workplace. And so COVID has kind of hijacked the entire safety conversation, and we seem to be focusing on that. I would say don't run the risk of exposing your clients and the public because you don't have a good plan in place, because I have a feeling, and I've heard from some attorneys that that's the litigation that's going to be coming down the road is that people are going to be getting sued, because someone feels they got exposed in their workplace. So being aware of that and having a plan. Don't overlook all of your other safety obligations in the interest of just focusing on one thing, that's the other problem. You know, don't implement personal protective equipment to prevent covid that's going to expose somebody to some other kind of hazards that should have been controlled asbestos or traffic controller, who knows what, you know, PPE can interfere with the job if it's not implemented. That's another concern. But I would say the biggest fear is not having a considered plan, and not following the plan that you put in place.

Dave Asheim  42:11    :  So write out a plan, get it approved by management, don't just make decisions on the fly. And I think what you're all saying is be more conservative. If there is an issue. We have a question here from Melinda. If a person is really nervous about this, then you're saying take action and send the person home. Just don't don't let it fester. I guess just make sure that the workplace is as safe as it possibly can be. 

Trish Ennis  42:48    :  Yeah. So if staff were exposed to the person who refused to take the test, and they don't know if they had COVID or not? That's a good question. I'm not entirely sure. how I would advise someone. You know, you could say that they were potentially exposed to someone who was symptomatic, but it hasn't been confirmed as COVID and that you've taken steps to remove the person from the workplace. But yeah, that that's a hard one. The other question I see is, do we have to pay quarantine workers? And that may also differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Depending on what your local labor laws dictate, we don't have to pay quarantine workers. There have been some cases where the exposure can be clearly tied to the workplace, and some workers compensation benefits may apply in that case, where they would get some some pay for that. But I think, partly why people are suffering in this economy so much is that they are not getting paid to stay home. So if you have a way of quarantining your workers by letting them work from home, that takes that question off the table because they can still productive.

Dave Asheim  44:16    :  That is a real tough one, because you're almost you're challenged if you if you get too aggressive, or if you're if you're too conservative. And I think that's why a lot of organizations that are probably on this call are saying it's just scary. All these legal implications are scary. And I'm better off not opening my door for for another month or two. Can you insist that people take a COVID test?

Trish Ennis  44:49    :  I think in most workplaces, you cannot. There are some guidelines I believe where you may require, like a healthcare setting. They insist that they take a test in order to continue working, yeah, so those guidelines are going to be different depending on the environment. And again, the labor laws, and what the occupational testing environment is, or something like that.

Dave Asheim  45:13    :  Yeah. Yeah. Right.

Trish Ennis  45:15    :  Typically, yeah. Because in healthcare, they could be transmitting it to others who are coming there because they don't have a choice there.

Dave Asheim  45:29    :  It is such an interesting dilemma that all of us are on this call are in and there's not a clear answer. That's for sure.

Trish Ennis  45:37    :  So now, the FFCRA, I would have to revisit that rule about paying 80 hours of COVID sick pay. If that rule was put into place, I think it was challenged. But that would be a good question. To find an answer to and I'm sorry, I don't know the answer to it. But one of the things I would recommend with this Fisher Phillips, and there are a number of labor attorneys out there, Fisher Phillips just happens to be there nationwide. And I know them because one of their members sits on our board of directors. And so I get a lot of information from them. You could ask them a question or find a local labor attorney to ask that question and get get clarification on it. Because I don't know. 

Dave Asheim  46:31    :  What is that? Trish? What is that? FCRA?

Trish Ennis  46:34    :  Federal fair credit? I have to remember even what the acronym means. There's been several pieces of legislation that have come out tied with COVID relief funds, and part of it was the unemployment families. And some of it was, you know, there was that act, there was the additional unemployment benefit that went out that expired, and we're waiting for Congress to pass another bill to extend those benefits and hasn't happened. So I'm not sure what the status is. That's a good question. 

Dave Asheim  47:26    :  Well, we don't have too much time left, I'm just going to spend 30 seconds reviewing some of the things. Trish alluded to a few of the things that could help on the communication side, we have a little PDF that we'll include to everybody that signed up for our webinar. We've got a text messaging system that can send out messages. So like Trish was saying, if there is an outbreak, or you need to get in touch with people, not everybody checks their email. So that's one of the services. We've got three or four others here, Molly's gonna go through it in a second. There's a checklist, a cleaning checklist, and a way that your employees can kind of have a little app on their phone, a little mobile app on their phone about keeping the workplace clean. And surveys are are very popular. We have some organizations that will send a survey out every Monday morning, how was your weekend? Did you do something that might have exposed you? So all kinds of ways to gauge the COVID health of your workforce. And then there are some tools like this bottom right one, the Personal Space Guardian that you can wear that will help keep a six foot distance. So if any of that stuff is interesting to you, let us know. And we'll send you more. Trish has got her email here and her phone number will send all of these slides tomorrow. Any final questions for Trish before we let everybody go? It's been a great session here. Trish, I think people are struggling to find out legitimate information and you offer quite a bit of that. So that was terrific. Before we take off any questions? If so make your notes in the chat window. Otherwise, we will send all of you this presentation tomorrow. And Trish, anything that you want to kind of summarize for us any words of wisdom before we we sign off as people think about handling this whole crazy issue.

Trish Ennis  49:41    :  I think it could be overwhelming. And I think to your point, there's so much information out there that I would advise organizations to find a couple of credible sources and avoid the whole what they call doom scrolling, scrolling and scrolling and reading all this doom and gloom stuff. Find some credible sources, talk to some experts in your local jurisdiction, have a plan, stick to the plan and get employee feedback in that plan so that you have some engagement. And what we find is a lot of times the people who are closest to the work are going to have good ideas about how to make that work safer and to work safely. So I would say, don't discount the information you can get from the people who are on the pointy end of the spear, so to speak, because they're closest to the work and they're going to have some good ideas for you.

Dave Asheim  50:34    :  It's great advice. Okay, everybody, thank you for attending. And if you want to chat with us, Trish, maybe put your phone number in the message. I'll do it too.

Trish Ennis  50:50    :  I'm going to put my direct line in.

Dave Asheim  50:53    :  Great, there's me and Trisha is going to add her notes in just a second here. And we would all welcome a chance to chat with you.

So we'll hang out here for another minute. But for all of you that have to run, thank you for attending and Trish. It was terrific having you as our guest speaker. You're obviously really knowledgeable and I think just provide great advice. So thanks so much.

Trish Ennis  51:33    :  Thanks for the opportunity.

Dave Asheim  51:34    :  You're welcome. All right. Thanks, Ernest. Thanks, Nedra, Melinda and everybody. All right. Bye, everybody. Thanks for attending. You. Okay, bye. Hi.

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