Compliance Personnel Safety Training

COVID-19 Best Practices Keep Workers Safe

EP Editorial Staff | February 1, 2021

The right technology can help companies smoothly reopen and keep employees safe in a post-COVID workplace. Photos: Fluke Corp.

Consider these factors as you adjust the work environment to meet pandemic safety guidelines.

By Sean Silvey, Fluke Corp.

Companies now have to re-envision what their workspace looks like during and after this pandemic. As reopening moves forward, following CDC guidelines, along with ensuring enough space is allotted for social distancing are the first steps managers need to keep in mind. Adapting how everyone works together and ensuring employees have the right tools can set your team up for success.

The rules and regulations around reopening are constantly changing. As regions move through different phases and more information is released, it’s important to be able to adapt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta (cdc.gov), offers useful interim guidance for businesses and employers. While building your strategies and making changes, keep their coronavirus response guidelines in mind. The CDC recommends including the following as you resume normal operations: 

• Conduct daily health checks.
• Conduct a workplace hazard assessment.
Encourage employees to wear cloth face coverings in the workplace, if appropriate.
Implement policies and practices for social distancing in the workplace.
Improve the building ventilation system.

Daily health checks

As employees enter an office or jobsite, exposure risks can be reduced by checking their temperature with an accurate fever scanner, asking questions about their health, and keeping a log for contact tracing. As the CDC recommends, conduct virtual or in-person health checks daily before employees enter a facility; ask about symptoms and screen temperatures.

Space utilization

Use the hazard assessment of your workplace to rearrange space so everyone can follow social distancing guidelines. Walkways may need to be widened, desks spread apart from one another, and meeting and break-room spaces changed to allow the recommended space between individuals. 

Customize your space strategy to meet the needs of your company. For some, that may be as simple as rearranging desks and installing portable handwashing stations and/or hand-sanitizer pumps along paths to high-traffic areas such as break rooms. This keeps employees further apart, reduces risk, and makes it convenient to take safety precautions. Some companies may need to update an entire building with smart-sensor-based technologies, such as wearable thermographic cameras that can detect elevated temperature and monitor physical distancing.

People counting

Installing people-counting sensors can be the first step toward creating a smart building. Add sensors at main entrances and high-traffic areas throughout the workplace. When mounted over doorways, these sensors can maintain an accurate, anonymous count of how many people are in a specified area and quickly alert anyone walking past whether it’s safe to enter.

In conjunction with display screens, people counting sensors can create a building-wide system. The traffic data can then be used to better plan employee schedules, meetings, or breaks. The system tracks and saves occupancy rates, allowing managers to review the information in the cloud-based system to ensure occupancy restrictions and social distancing guidelines are followed. 

Using wireless or cloud-based tools can allow employees to collaborate and remotely monitor measurements.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Tools are often used by many people in a facility. This could lead to increased infections if tools are not properly cleaned between uses. Stock up on cleaning supplies such as isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and clean cloths so employees always have what they need to keep their tools safe to use. 

Personal protective equipment (PPE) also needs to be properly disinfected between uses or thrown away if it shouldn’t be reused. PPE has become a more commonly used term, and it can include anything from face masks to the levels of equipment required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA, Quincy, MA, nfpa.org) in NFPA 70E, The Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.

Wireless or cloud-based tools

Using wireless tools or meters with a cloud-based connection can cut down on tool handoffs, PPE needs, and even how many people need to be in a facility. A wireless tool can be attached or used inside the arc-flash boundary while another individual stays outside of the boundary and documents the measurements. The person outside of the arc-flash boundary won’t need full arc-flash gear and they will also be adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Tools that have cloud-based software enabled allow measurements to be logged and saved on the jobsite so anyone with the app can view the work. Cut down on the number of face-to-face interactions or employees on-site when everyone has access to the data from current or past measurements. 

CMMS

The right asset-management system can help automate the processes needed to track many of these steps. A cloud-based computer-maintenance-management system (CMMS) enables maintenance-team members to work safely and remotely while still collaborating with on-site colleagues. A CMMS offers a paperless process to monitor asset condition data, schedule work orders, manage parts inventory, and help track workplace safety activities such as cleaning and sanitation. 

Sean Silvey is a product application specialist at Fluke. Previously, he was a residential/commercial HVAC technician, and a field service manager. Sean’s focus is application awareness, product education and safety.

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