Vector image of person leaving their home for work in the office after the long shutdown


Contributed by Veriforce 

As companies across industries continue navigating the challenges presented by COVID-19, they are shifting their focus from managing through a shut-down to re-opening for business. The reopening process doesn’t have to be complex or disruptive. Leaders can approach it strategically, working from a comprehensive plan that starts by answering questions that address our ‘new normal.’ 

Questions businesses can ask themselves are:

1. What new policies and procedures are in place to protect employees from infectious diseases, ensuring a safe and healthy work environment for everyone?

2. How has the business communicated these policies and procedures and what systems are in place place to enable and enforce them? 

When workers return to offices, plants and open-air work sites, they must be clear on new expectations and how to comply, and leaders must demonstrate command and control of new standard operating procedures to properly guide them. 

For a safe return and effective business continuity, companies can leverage a holistic plan that addresses infectious disease policy, training, support and worksite re-entry credentialing and verification. Addressing these four key areas will help to improve the well-being of a company’s workforce and their work as re-entry ramps up:

1. COVID-19 Awareness 

A training foundation for this virus and other infectious diseases should outline factual information from reputable sources, proactive prevention measures and appropriate behavior. This gives companies peace of mind that their workforces understand the severity of the virus and its impacts, can identify symptoms, and take precautionary steps and know what to do if they or a coworker become ill.

2. Behavior-Based Safety

Over the past several months, workers have experienced heightened emotion and stress, which may impact their behavior, and in turn, their safety and the safety of those around them. Including behavior-based safety as a part of disease standardized training emphasizes to workers how their attitude affects their behavior and how it has larger consequences on a company and its entire workforce.

3. Communication

Clearly articulating infectious disease policies across a broad spectrum of workers – related to unique business operations and through multiple locations – is critical, as is a continued commitment to providing updated news and information.

4. Enforcement

Effectively administering new operating procedures to address this new reality requires a significant investment in time, people and systems. Building a framework and charting a course for implementation is vital. As the pandemic evolves, dynamically responding to learnings from the early days of re-entry will minimize confusion and disruption. Having a plan to monitor processes and procedures, process crucial insights and roll out adjustments will be key to continued safety and success.

Companies can leverage re-entry credentialing and verification to protect their workforces through evolving regulations and various phases of re-entry and verify their awareness and understanding. They can also use maintenance protocols to ensure best practices are being followed and that they remain effective. Moving forward in the most comprehensive and precautionary way possible is the safest, most efficient and effective way to return to work and ensure continued business operations.

James Junkin serves as founder and president of Mariner-Gulf Consulting & Services, LLC, an international full-service Risk Management/HSE consulting and training firm. He is a master authorized instructor for Veriforce, a leader in safety and risk management. He has conducted more than 1,000 courses and has trained thousands of students to become certified instructors. James earned a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety and Health from Columbia Southern University.