PATH to Reopening Your Business
July 1, 2020 | Webinar
Bill Shoemaker, Senior Industrial Hygienist at Travelers, and Chris Hayes, Second Vice President of Risk Control at Travelers, joined Wednesdays with Woodward to explore how employers can responsibly reopen for business while taking measures to help stop or limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Shoemaker and Hayes explained that COVID-19 is not a classic occupational risk, such as exposures generated from work tasks like metal fumes from welding. Business owners should address the unique risk of COVID-19 exposure by enacting a risk management process that can interrupt and minimize the transmission potential in the workplace. Both speakers cautioned that businesses that have already reopened should not get complacent and encouraged business owners and managers to continue monitoring their practices by staying connected to employees and adapting as necessary.
Watch the Replay
Text, Disclaimer. This program or presentation is only a tool to assist you in managing your responsibility to maintain safe premises, practices, operations and equipment, and is not for the benefit of any other party. The program or presentation does not cover all possible hazardous conditions or unsafe acts that may exist and does not constitute legal advice. For decisions regarding use of the practices suggested by this program or presentation, follow the advice of your own legal counsel. Travelers disclaims all forms of warranties whatsoever, without limitation. Implementation of any practices suggested by this program or presentation is at your sole discretion, and Travelers or its affiliates shall not be liable to any party for any damages whatsoever arising out of, or in connection with, the information provided or its use. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law. The recorded session may be used, copied, adapted, distributed, publicly displayed and/or performed as Travelers deems appropriate. COVID-19: Path to Reopening Your Business. The red umbrella logo for Travelers. COVID-19: Risk Management Today.
Good afternoon and welcome to today's webinar, Path to Reopening Your Business. Before I begin, I want to draw your attention to the disclaimer. Please take a moment to read it. We are going to discuss best practices relating to your risk management processes but we can't possibly cover every scenario you may encounter.
And for any legal decisions that may relate to the use of the information discussed during this presentation, always follow the advice of your own legal counsel My name is Joan Woodward, and I will be your moderator today for this webinar.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the Travelers Institute, we are the Public Policy division of Travelers. For 11 years we've hosted educational forums across the United States, Canada, and the UK just like this, a little different though, most of them are in person.
The issues affect our customers, communities, and our agent and broker partners of over 30,000 employees as well. Issues like small business advocacy, disaster preparedness, and distracted driving to name a few.
Text, Wednesdays with Woodward (registered trademark). A Travelers Institute webinar series. Visit us at WWW dot Travelers Institute dot org. Travelers Institute, Travelers. SBE Council. Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. ACCION. IVMF, Institute for Veterans and Military Families. Syracuse University. JP Morgan Chase and Co, Founding Partner.
This is the second webinar in our Wednesdays with Woodward series, where I have the pleasure of speaking with thought leaders about pressing topics that impact us in both our personal and professional lives.
Over the next few months, roughly every other Wednesday, we'll host these free educational webinars for you. Visit the travelersinstitute.org to see a recording of our last webinar, Return to Work with Cybersecurity. And stay tuned for further webinars is to be announced in the next week or so.
I want to say a special thanks today for our partner organizations who helped make this program possible, the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council led by Karen Kerrigan, Accion, and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families.
Text, Our Panel. Panelist, Bill Shoemaker, Senior Industrial Hygiene Specialist, CIH, Travelers Risk Control. Panelist, Chris Hayes, Second Vice President, Travelers Risk Control. Moderator, Joan Woodward, Executive Vice President of Public Policy and President of the Travelers Institute.
Today we have two panelists to talk about how employers can cautiously and responsibly open for business while taking measures to help stop and limit the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Bill Shoemaker is a Senior Industrial Hygienist here at Travelers. And Chris Hayes is 2VP, Responsibility in Risk Control for Workers Compensation and Transportation.
We will address audience questions at the end of this program but would very much like to encourage you to submit those questions to our panelists throughout the program. So in the next half hour while they're speaking, please go ahead and do so by selecting the Q&A icon near the bottom of your screen. So you scroll down to the bottom, and you'll see Q&A. And just go ahead and type us a question.
Text, Our Objectives Today. Understanding COVID-19 and how it impacts your workplace. Applying a risk management approach to the risk of COVID-19. Discuss the four elements of the PATH back to business. Applying it to your business. A rendering of a viral molecule, a sphere with red protrusions around its surface.
2020 has been a very challenging year. COVID-19 has brought about ever evolving world with information and guidance coming from all sides. Now that we find ourselves moving to whatever this new normal will be, the ongoing safety of employees is paramount in ways we never ever considered before.
Whether your business remained open, you're planning to reopen now, or you've already opened, or you're somewhere in between all those options, chances are you have some questions. You want to do it the right way. So planning, preparing, executing, monitoring, and adjusting are all keys to making sure you provide the best outcome for your staff and others.
Our goal during this webinar today is to provide you with a better understanding of how COVID-19 affects and impacts your workplace and to discuss how basic risk management principles apply to this new risk. We'll we be using our path approach to help you step through these issues and apply elements to your own business.
So to get the conversation started, let's go to Bill.
Text, COVID-19 in the Workplace. A woman sips coffee at her laptop, working from home. A doorknob is sanitized. A man with a surgical mask leans over a bench at a restaurant. A hardhat worker washes his hands at a sink.
How is managing the COVID risk right now different from managing other risks that pose a threat to the safety of employees, customers, and the general public?
To begin this discussion let's level set with some COVID-19 basics. We should remember that COVID-19 is a public health issue. Every one of us has an inherent risk of exposure and subsequent infection in our routine, everyday life. COVID-19 is not a classic occupational disease risk, such as metal fumes exposures from welding.
COVID-19 is a public health risk, which is a new potential risk factor or exposure in our occupational setting. COVID-19 can affect all workers and will impact every business organization in some manner. The risk of exposure created by this new normal should be addressed in your organization's risk management process, with the ultimate goal being to interrupt or minimize the transmission potential in the workplace.
Text, Risk Management Process. Applying risk management concepts to COVID-19. Workplace issue or a public health issue A circular diagram with arrows starts from identify the risks, then implement controls, then train and educate, then monitor and adjust, then back to identifying the risks again.
So as safety and health professionals here, Travelers has been dealing with risk management for more than a century. Chris, can you talk to us a little bit about how we start to consider managing the risk with this new disease?
Sure, thanks Joan, thanks for having us on today. As we started thinking about COVID-19 and the ways you can respond to it, it did feel like the ways we've thought about other risk management concepts over the course of our time. Organizations are always addressing challenges in employee safety through solid risk manager practices. And COVID-19 is just the next challenge that we all face.
Most organizations already have a risk management process. And this will just be another piece of that. The things we think about for a solid risk management process includes identifying, understanding the risk, implementing controls, training, educating employees, and then monitoring the effectiveness as needed.
So across the country businesses have been opening at different times. And I encourage everyone who's taking part in this today to think about where you are in that risk management process. Some of you may not have opened yet. Some of you are just beginning to reopen. And some are currently implementing controls and training employees.
Some people in this call have probably been open for some time. And if you're in that category, I strongly encourage you to stay focused on this risk management model that we'll discuss today. And recognize that you were now in the monitor and adjust phase. Don't get complacent with how things are and challenge what you're doing.
Are you keeping up with new guidelines? Or are you monitoring how other practices are working? Are you staying connected to your employees? There are always opportunities for improvement. And each time you improve your safety practice you potentially make your business safer for your employees, for your customers, and for the public.
So Chris, is there one particular plan that business owners should be following right now?
I would love it if there were one plan that everyone should be following. But unfortunately, that's not the world that we live in. I'm sure organizations are looking for that one clear set of detailed instructions for operating safely in this new environment. But the truth is there is no one set of rules that's going to work for everyone. Workplaces are just too diverse for a one size fits all approach.
So just as an example from other industries, not every construction company is going to have the exact same Fall Protection Program. And not every manufacturer is going to have the same lockout tag up program. Everything needs to be tailored towards that organization's unique circumstance.
Text, The Noise Around Us. News, work from home, PPE, medical community, television, education, new normal, public opinion, health questionnaires, staggered shifts, disinfection, reputation, uninformed information, publications, virtual meetings, site readiness, family and friends, communication plan, safety, policies and procedures. Viral particles with red and yellow protrusions.
So if you look at the way things have been going over the course of the year, much of our time and attention in 2020 has been spent absorbing information on COVID-19. And it's tough to get past all the noise and really focus on the critical issues that impact a business and the health of employees.
Text, PATH Cuts Through the Noise. A winding road passes checkpoints along a route to an office building labeled new normal. The first checkpoint is Plan, site readiness, policies and procedures, manage your risk. Then Act, health questionnaires, communication plan, staggered shifts, and work from home. Then Train, education, disinfection, PPE, and virtual meetings. Then Health, reputation.
And that's why we came up with this framework called PATH, which is just that. It's a pathway to cut through all the noise and focus on reducing the risk of transmission in the workplace. PATH which stands for Plan, Act, Train, and Health, are core principles that everyone should consider in order to operate safely in today's environment. And we'll walk through these over the course of today's presentation.
Terrific, thanks Chris. So Bill, before we dive into that PATH framework, let's explore something Chris said a minute ago, that one size fits all approach is not going to work when it comes to managing this kind of a risk. So can you say more about that for us?
Text, What is the Risk Level? Prevalence in your community, industry, business. A pyramid with smaller blocks leading from low risk, through medium, high, and very high risk.
Yeah absolutely, Joan. It all starts with an understanding of the risk level and making a plan based on what you know about that risk level. It's important to base your planning on information from sources such as the CDC, OSHA, or state and local authorities. You know, When you think about a job title or a role, that same job title or that same role may have very different risk levels based on the industry in which the individuals in that role work.
We have to start at the beginning and consider the level of inherent risk within an organization's work environment. OSHA's risk pyramid divides job tasks into four risk exposure levels, very high, high, medium, and lower risk, with the very high-risk level being our front line health care professionals and similar occupations.
In general, most US workers will fall in the medium to lower risk categories with proper planning and action. The risk pyramid contemplates a business's needs for contact within six feet of people that are known to be or suspected of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 the question then becomes, can the six-foot physical distance rule be maintained? And if not, which work environments inherently pose a higher risk of workplace transmission?
It's also important to acknowledge other factors which may not be directly associated with the workplace, like the prevailing conditions in the communities where employees live and work, employees activities outside of work, including travel to COVID affected areas, and their individual health conditions. These kinds of factors may also affect an employee's risk of getting COVID-19 or developing complications from the illness.
To better understand this concept let's take a look at a few examples. Let's compare two different scenarios with the same job title, receptionist. Our first receptionist is in a business office and our second receptionist is in a medical clinic. The general job duties may have similar similarities but they're very different risk levels. Because these two receptionists have different environments.
Within a medical clinic, the receptionist may be exposed to infected or potentially infectious visitors and patients. But in the business office, the company is able to implement policies and protocols to control access and minimize the number of people on site, thereby reducing the exposure to their receptionist.
Within the medical office, the risk would be considered high for the receptionist. Whereas depending on the occupancy, the risk for the receptionist in the business office environment would be classified from low to medium, depending on their ability to maintain physical distancing.
In another example, let's look at a manufacturing setting. Let's consider a facility with employees working in close proximity to each other, such as a meat processing facility at a breakdown table versus the job shop where small quantities of customized products are manufactured. In the meat processing plant, employees must work closely to efficiently process the meat. In this case, it's difficult to maintain proper physical distancing so additional controls may be needed to reduce the level of risk.
In the job shop, the work task can be organized to allow for proper physical distancing. So here we have an example of a fixed versus a fluid work environment.
That's great, Bill, that's very helpful. So what about something as simple as working inside or working outside? Tell us about that.
Yeah indoor and outdoor work environments are common in our construction industry. With an outdoor environment there's more space to allow for proper distancing. Whereas in an indoor project you might have limited, people limited to a confined space.
But outdoor work doesn't preclude you from evaluating the work tasks where you may have multiple people doing tasks together that don't allow for physical distancing. Examples would include multiple pull person like two person lifts or handling a concrete pumper hose.
All right. Thanks, that's helpful.
The PATH roadway through Plan, Act, Train, and Health to the new normal.
So once a company has evaluated their risk level, which we've just done in this example, what's the next step on the path?
So the second step is to act, which is put into place appropriate controls to reduce the risk of transmission.
Text, Applying the Hierarchy of Controls to COVID-19. Understand tasks and risks. Balancing cost and feasibility. Arrows point up and down a set of stacked levels from more effective and sustainable at the top to more participation and supervision required at the bottom. Starting at the bottom with PPE, then administrative, then engineering, then substitution, then elimination at the top.
So we'll talk about something that should look familiar to anyone who's worked in safety or risk management. And that's the hierarchy of controls. It's another concept that many organizations probably already apply to some risk in their organization. And COVID-19 is just another place to make it work.
We'll move through the hierarchy and get to examples of how they can be applied to a number of organizations and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. The key is to think about this as a process to avoid escalation of disease transmission. Your goal should be to reduce opportunities for the disease to move through your workplace.
One type of controls is not necessarily better than another. The controls at the top of the hierarchy can significantly reduce risk. But they can be more challenging to implement because of the costs or changes required to an operation. Other controls like administration or personal protective equipment may be less costly and require less retooling of operations, but they're also more intensive in terms of management and have a greater risk of human error. They require significantly more employee engagement to be effective.
Also keep in mind that establishing one type of control doesn't mean that you can't supplement it with another type of control. So Joan, we've spent a lot of time talking about vehicle safety in the past. So as an example, just because your brakes checked doesn't mean you stop wearing your seat belt. You may find that you want to start with administrative control and personal protective equipment, and as resources and time allows, move on to engineering controls. And we'll come back to that again in the example of the two person lift that Bill discussed earlier.
OK terrific. Thanks, Chris, so can you two talk us through the hierarchy of controls and give us some ideas for what a company can do at each of these levels?
Text, Physically Remove the Hazard. Elimination. A father works from home with his infant in the background. Control Access. A red door opens among a series of closed doors. Shut down. A sign reads, Sorry, we're closed.
Sure, let's start with elimination. Elimination, when referring to the classic workplace exposure involves removing the exposure from the work environment. Without the exposure, minimum management oversight is needed. But we cannot eliminate SARS-CoV-2. So in a COVID-19 world elimination refers to eliminating tasks or functions that require large gatherings or close contact between employees. Since people are the source of transmission, we can eliminate some transmission sources by determining who's essential and business critical to being at the worksite.
Those who aren't essential at the worksite can work from home and may come back on site at a later time. So that gives us several examples. We could eliminate workplace access to our non-critical contractors and visitors. We can eliminate reception seating areas to prevent group gatherings. We can eliminate shared services like community coffee bars.
Bill, I think we may have some technical difficulties you're muted for some reason. Can you unmute yourself, Bill?
Chris, are you there?
I am here.
I'm here. I'm sorry, Joan. I'm not sure how I,
You were eliminating our coffee bars the last time I heard. So I don't like that one.
Not surprising that we had a technical issue as we limited coffee bar. So I'm going to take a sip of my coffee as we continue.
Yeah, yeah, no problem. So I was just talking through some of the examples of ways that we can eliminate the transmission risk. So again, you can eliminate workplace access to contractors and visitors, you can eliminate lobby seating areas to prevent group gatherings, or large conference rooms, and I just mentioned eliminating the community coffee bar which of course, brings a tear to all of our eyes, as well as any water bottles or places where people congregate.
Other things that you could do would be eliminating large amounts of people in one area, like I mentioned the conference rooms or break rooms. You may need to space people out. And then finally, you can eliminate unnecessary travel that people may have planned.
Text, Reduce the Hazard. Substitution. An employee chats over virtual conferencing. Curbside delivery. Baskets of fruit are delivered outside a door. Substitute meeting rooms to accommodate social distancing. A group of hard hat workers stand outside in a wide circle.
Moving on to the next level in our hierarchy is substitution. And in the classic control hierarchy, when we think about substitution, we're usually referring to exchanging some highly toxic material such as chlorinated hydrocarbons, say, for something that's less toxic. But in a COVID-19 world, substitution takes on a different meaning.
So substitution could refer to exchanging activities or operations that require many people in a small area for more appropriate activities that are more conducive to physical distancing. Chris can you think of some ideas here to share with our group?
Absolutely, I think what we're doing right now is a great example of that. We have hundreds of people online doing training. And as you can see, every one of our speakers is working out of their home. My pets are behaving themselves today as there is less background noise than usual. And this virtual conferencing is just a great example of how we can have that kind of substitution.
Think about any store you've been to, especially restaurants. May have gone to a curbside pickup or delivery model. Another great example, something we've all seen recently, anything that's been moved to be done virtually. And I think most businesses are looking at models where those non-critical third parties that you may have had come in such as a vendor. As much of that moving to a virtual model as possible is probably what we're going to see in our future as well.
And something as simple as signatures. The days of handing a pen back and forth to sign a document might be going away. And we might be seeing more electronic signatures. So many ways that substitution could be part of what we do.
Text, Isolate People From the Hazard. Engineering. Barriers. A checkout clerk attends a customer across a plastic shield. Redesign workstations. Two women sit at desks on opposite sides of a room and pass documents across to each other while wearing surgical masks. No-touch options. An empty waste bin.
Hey thanks, Chris. Moving on to our engineering controls in the new normal, our engineering controls are there to interrupt the pathway of transmission. So think about deflecting the airborne aerosol from entering an employee’s breathing zone or eliminating their physical contact with a potentially contaminated surface.
So ideas would be things such as putting up Plexiglas barriers where you have bank tellers, cashiers, or receptionists. You can reconfigure workstations and reduce the number of chairs that are available to achieve that six-foot separation distance.
Additionally, you could put no touch motion sensors on trash receptacles, time clocks, faucet, soap dispensers, entry doors. There's almost a limitless number of places you can put those no touch sensors.
And then finally, you could establish flow patterns on your floors, either in hallways, or stairwells, or even out on your production floor, as well as distance markings to help people maintain that six foot of separation. So if we can eliminate, great. If we can't, let's substitute.
And let's look at the engineering controls to interrupt that pathway of transmission. Now moving on, our engineering and administrative controls tend to blend together. Administrative controls require a higher degree of active employee and management participation and buy in to be successful. Chris, can you comment on some of the administrative controls that should be considered?
Text, Change the Way People Work. Administrative. Reducing high congregation areas. People stand in line several feet apart as they enter an office building. Managing Common Spaces. A man and woman sit with several chairs between them. Reducing occupancy. A worker tapes off every other desk in an office.
Sure, so typically administrative controls are policies and procedures that are backed up by training for those policies and procedures. And as you mentioned, they require a significant amount of employee participation to make work. So some examples we can think about in this time is modifying work shifts. Rather than everyone showing up at the exact same time every day you can stagger those start times so you can reduce the amount of time where people are clumped together. In the exact same way you look at any high congregation areas in the workspace.
As Bill mentioned, break rooms coffee bars, lobbies. And look for ways to reduce the risk of employees clumping together and gathering in those areas. Looking at any of any of training needs for your organization and thinking how you can do those in a way maybe virtually that reduce the risk of disease transmission, can work. One very simple thing that I believe we're going to have a little bit later is hand hygiene. How to reinforce these hand hygiene practices is critical at this time.
It's about reducing occupancy and reducing occupancy can be tough. Because there are times we don't think about high occupancy. You might think, oh, I've got, say, a call center where people are working closely together. Meatpacking people are working closely together. But other areas like break rooms, elevators, group transportation, and a shuttle or a van is another place where you might want to rethink how you are organizing your business.
And then some simple things we've seen organizations do are looking to assign people to designated areas. Whereas we may have had a situation where people could freely move around inside of a building facility, you might want to have people locked down to a specific area. So there is less risk of someone wandering through a building and spreading a disease.
Text, Protect People From the Hazard. PPE. A worker sanitizes his hands at a dispenser. Women wear hairnets and surgical masks in a bakery. A hard hat worker at a construction site wears a mask.
Thanks, Chris. So once we've taken all of these steps, next consider the use of face coverings. First of all, let me mention that it's important to review all your state and local requirements related to the use of face coverings it's important to understand what may be required by your state and local government when you reopen your business.
But specifically on the issue of face coverings let's consider the fact that in the world of risk analysis, the use of personal protective equipment, or PPE as we like to call it, such as filtering face piece respirators that protect a worker from inhalation hazards, such as metal fumes during welding tasks, It's considered a last resort. That is, when these other steps to reduce the risk are unavailable or not workable for the task involved, PPE will be used as a last resort.
So in a COVID-19 world, face coverings are similar to PPE but actually used not to protect the work or wearer. Rather they're there to protect around the wearer, you know those people who can't maintain social distancing with the wearer. The purpose of the face covering is to interrupt respiratory droplets emitted by the wearer when they cough or sneeze so that the airborne spread is limited, and surface contamination is reduced.
But similar to PPE in the hierarchy of controls in your risk analysis, don't skip taking measures like physical distancing and simply require workers to wear a face covering. Take all the other possible steps first and then identify where physical distancing isn't possible and use face coverings. Your risk analysis very well may reveal that widespread use of face coverings is needed. Again, in addition to all those other steps.
Great, but what about the common work tasks that really do require two or more employees to be working in very close proximity to each other? I think earlier you mentioned, Chris, the two-person lift. What can companies do to really protect their employees in these situations? Because they're asking their employees to be at risk.
That's a great question. The two-person lift was the conundrum that we started tackling as soon as we started thinking about this topic. Just like we talked about in the risk management discussion, after implementing and training you need to monitor and adjust. So in this case, we might have a possible short term and a long term solution to our two person lift.
So the short-term solution might be to use face coverings, and gloves, and enforce frequent hand hygiene. But we know that face coverings are not a substitution for social distancing. The long-term solution, which might take some time, and some effort, and some investment, is to look at that work task and eliminate the need for a two person lift all altogether, using a mechanical lift aid or just by redesigning the process.
Redesigning the process can also mitigate potential manual material handling related injuries which are commonly associated with that task. So you get one with a short term solution then work on the longer term solution and implement it when you're ready. This is going to help you improve your risk of multiple types of injuries as well as better manage the COVID-19 risk.
So let's turn to, that was face coverings, let's turn to gloves. You see a lot of people in the grocery stores. Do they provide any sort of protection? And should workers be required, or volunteers, to wear gloves? What's the story on the gloves?
Well that's tough. So the use of gloves is not a substitute for thorough and frequent hand washing. There are a variety of reasons why. Infectious materials can contaminate the gloves and then can be transferred if you touch your face with your dirty glove. Also, hands can become contaminated when you remove or dispose of the gloves. In fact, health care professionals are trained to thoroughly wash their hands when they remove their gloves.
The PATH road map through Plan, Act, Train, and Health to the new normal office.
OK, terrific advice. All right, now we're on to the T which is training. So as we move down the path, our next step training. I imagine that training and education can be particularly challenging in this environment. After all people are very anxious, right? And leaders and supervisors are equally anxious. We're all humans, right, in this together? So Chris how can companies make this work?
Text, Training and Education. Virtually educate. Senior leadership endorsement. Why training is important. Leverage virtual capabilities. On-going training, reinforcement and updates. Introduce new policies, job practices. A keyboard with a red button that reads Learning, with a book icon.
I like how you said we're all in this together and that's exactly the attitude we're hoping to encourage here. One of the concepts we talk about often is employee engagement. The more your employees believe in and buy into what you're doing, the more likely you are to succeed. Almost every organization is going to have changes to process and protocols that will require ongoing communication and training.
If you've been shut down by health concerns or maybe have recently reopened or planning to reopen, the first day employee comes back should not be the first time the employee is hearing about your COVID-19 plans. You want to communicate with employees before they come back if possible. And maybe more poorly, you wouldn't be able to solicit feedback from employees as well.
Some of the best ideas in workplace safety come from people working in the shop, on the line, on the warehouse floor. Ideas that may look great on paper might not work out so well in practice. Remember that's not a reason to give up. It's a reason to rethink and retool.
So Bill talked about earlier, there are some controls we implemented through engineering. Others will take daily commitment from employees. This is why you need to have leaders that get involved and model the way. Their new requirements for protection or safe work practices, leaders have to be seen as embracing these changes.
Back to the PATH road map.
All right, so we've been talking a lot about interrupting or eliminating transmission of the virus, which is critically important. With respect to that, let's move on to a fourth step, which is health, the H. What should a company consider from a health perspective, Bill?
Text, Health. Site cleaning -hygiene. Health pre-requisite. A health check on a tablet screen. A woman in a surgical mask and gloves wipes down a desk divider.
To help reduce the transmission pathway, regular and frequent cleaning and disinfection based on the CDC guidelines is key. Cleaning, which is recommended by the CDC as the first step, uses soap and water to physically remove dirt from the surface. While cleaning may not kill the germs, it lowers the risk of spreading the infection. And it primes the surface and objects for disinfection.
Following up with disinfection, the disinfecting refers to cleaning of shared high touch areas on a scheduled basis using an enlisted EPA disinfectant. And you want to make sure you do that in accordance with manufacturer's instructions. The cleaning and disinfection is particularly important for high touch surface areas and common areas. Such areas would include entryways, lobbies, hallways, break rooms, and restrooms.
The CDC offers detailed steps for proper cleaning and disinfecting of facilities. On your construction sites, consider your job trailers or other temporary spaces that need cleaning and disinfection daily. And make provisions for portable wash stations and other disinfecting supplies. Now note that the frequency of cleaning and disinfection should be increased proportionately with the number of people in the space and the frequency of contact with the surfaces.
Empower and equip your employees to clean and disinfect their workspaces and tools to aid in your efforts. For example, they could clean the shared pallet jacks or forklifts, and copiers and printers in the office. Consider removing unnecessary items from the space so that they don't need to be cleaned or disinfected at all.
For example, those coffee makers that we are no longer congregating by, and they're not being used or shared, they can be removed. So they don't need to be cleaned and disinfected. Other items for you to consider, wearing PPE may be needed based on the product you're using. Make sure that workers not only know when they should use PPE, gloves, for example, but how to properly remove and clean or dispose of the PPE.
Ensure that workers are trained on the hazards of the cleaning chemicals used in the workplace in accordance with OSHA's hazard communication standard. And follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and disinfection products, including concentration of the product, the application method, and the contact time.
Oh that's terrific. So you know, I'm hearing a lot about health questionnaires now And so things like that. Bill, can you tell me more? Can you explain how this works with a questionnaire? And give everyone some really concrete examples of what employers should consider.
Sure Joan, but first let me mention that before you implement specific procedures for medical screening of your employees, we recommend reviewing the applicable federal, state, and local guidelines and also consulting with your medical provider and legal counsel.
Some of the practices for screening employees, or visitors, and vendors, might include questionnaires for employees to self-report their temperatures. So they could be asked to take their temperature before they come to work or when they arrive at work, before they enter the facility.
Additionally, self-reporting of symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms that are defined by the CDC. And self-reporting of contact with COVID positive individuals or even international or domestic travel to areas with community spread of the virus. Remember however, the most protective methods incorporate social distancing or physical barriers to eliminate and minimize the exposures.
Hey Bill, there's one thing I can add that might help us wrap this up, is that one of the key ideas that managers can support is the idea that every individual in the workplace has a higher level of personal responsibility. Not just for their own health but really the health of their co-workers as well. So as Bill just described, a daily self-assessment is really there for everyone to gauge their own readiness to come to work.
Text, Applying PATH. The winding road through Plan, Act, Train, and Health leads to an office building that connects to a warehouse, a retail outlet, a cargo truck, and an office.
OK so we went through the whole path, now let's wrap it up. We've talked a lot. And we want to actually go take you through an example. Say a manufacturing environment and describe how you would apply this path framework in the actual workplace of a manufacturing sector. So, Bill?
Yes so Plan, Act, Train, Health, the planning is critical to achieve the end goal of interrupting the transmission pathway for SARS-CoV-2. So for a manufacturing environment you want to determine how closely the workers must be to each other. Where are they sharing space? And if they must share tools or equipment.
Can administrative or sales personnel work from home? Could you stagger work shifts or breaks? Is it essential that visitors or vendors enter your facility? Those are all things to think about when you're planning. When social and physical distancing aren't feasible then you want to take action and follow the hierarchy of controls.
So do you need to construct barriers between your workers or require face coverings? Can foot or forklift traffic be routed in a single direction, so workers aren't passing each other? Can additional break or lunchroom space be provided to spread people out? Then training and health, those aspects of our path will be similar regardless of the industry.
Have you communicated the new procedures to everyone? Are they being adhered to? What frequently touched surfaces and tools and equipment need increased cleaning and disinfection? And are you going to medically screen entrance to your facility, including the workers?
Chris, are there other environments besides manufacturing that you think we can talk about?
You know I think we can keep talking about manufacturing but talk about the different things that might be involved with the manufacturer. So just the examples you see on the image here in the screen are things besides just that factory floor that we might think about. So Bill, let's look at that person in the truck. Many manufacturers have a fleet that might make deliveries. So we have someone who's a truck driver who's making deliveries. What sort of things would I think about for them?
Yes, so Chris, thinking back to our need for a two-person lift. You can imagine that truck maybe has a passenger, or a rider and you may want to reconsider whether or not you can alter your operation. Or put a process in place so that you can eliminate the rider and just have a driver in the truck.
You can also think about your cleaning and disinfection between drivers as they switch shifts. Consider wearing face coverings if you need to have multiple people inside that truck. And also think about limiting the interaction between the driver and the customer at the delivery point.
I think it's a great point. We talk about training as a matter of communication with our employees. But there is also a matter of communication with anyone else that we engage with. And if you are a driver making deliveries there is going to be a customer at the endpoint. So getting to know their process as well, how that might change, would certainly be part of this.
So but I also see on this slide, we have a showroom where customers might come in to look at product. What sort of things do we think about changing around COVID for this?
Yeah Chris, so as I think about the retail space, you might need to install a barrier between your cashier and the customers. Or require both that and wearing of face coverings. You're also going to want to consider providing hand sanitizer and wash facilities.
And again, back to what we talked about earlier, you could limit traffic flow whether it, obviously here we're talking about pedestrian flow, to one way. So maybe a single entrance in and out of the facility and maybe markers on the floor so that as they go up and down aisle ways, they're going in one direction and not passing other people in the retail space.
That's great, you know I think about call centers as well. That's often where people are packed in pretty tightly. What sort of things do we think about for a call center at a manufacturer?
Yeah so ideally we'd go back to elimination. And we would try to address that, Chris, by reducing the occupancy. Or at the very least increasing the spacing between the workers to get beyond that six foot spacing. If we're not able to do that, then we're going to want to think about installing barriers, if needed.
We can also reconfigure the seating so that workers aren't facing each other. They're facing in opposite directions, not towards one another. Again, back to our way flow through the facility so individuals aren't passing one another. And go back and think about those shared services that you often have in call centers or office spaces.
You probably want to remove the shared coffee, the shared water bottle, any vending machines that are in the facility. And then lastly, you may still need to consider wearing face coverings in order to provide adequate separation.
Bill, you get me upset every time we talk about getting rid of the coffee. I'm going to ask you one more question before I hand this back over to Joan to take us to the QA. And I look at that central picture where I see a pretty big parking lot and a pretty big facility and one door in. So what sort of things should I be thinking about around just personal traffic flow, around things like parking lots or entrance ways?
Yeah so it really doesn't differ from what we've already talked about. You want to reduce the number of people that need to come in and out of that facility. So that's your elimination. If you can't do that, then go ahead and substitute with processes or procedures that limit gatherings or the number of people that need to interact with each other.
And then move down that hierarchy of controls to engineering where you may need to put up barriers so that as people are entering that door, they're staying to one side going in and staying to the other side going out. And then continue to work your way down.
You know just simple administrative procedures about telling them to make sure that they wear their face coverings, cover their cough, wash their hands, do all those things that we continue to hear about on the news. For us, I think that's really key in an environment where you have limited entry and egress.
That's great. So one of the concepts we talked about early on is there is no one size fits all for every organization. And I think what we saw here is just a new manufacturer. Depending on the role, depending on the task you were doing in that job, there might be different controls as well. So it really does come back to, can you look at each task and each person inside the organization and build the right plan, the right path for that person to reduce the risk of transmission?
It's really, really terrific and you know you both have really provided practical real time advice that folks can take away today and go implement. So grateful for both of you. And now it's actually time for the audience to get engaged here.
Text, Questions. SBE Council, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, Travelers Institute, Travelers, ACCION, IVMF Syracuse University, Institute for Veterans and Military Families. JP Morgan Chase and Co, Founding Partner.
if you haven't already submitted your question, go to the bottom little icon Q&A on your screen there. And we're going to take as many as we can over the next few minutes here. And so I'm going to go back to Chris. What do you have for our first audience question?
Thanks, Joan, we actually have quite a few questions and they tend to come in a couple of themes. So I'm going to try to hit those themes and ask for expert Bill here to give us some thoughts. So the first theme that I'm seeing come up often is can we wear face coverings or use respirators instead of social distancing?
So Chris, I know we've talked about it already, but let me emphasize again, face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. Again, face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. So those face coverings can include cloth coverings, the surgical mask, a face shield, or an N95 respirator. Provisions need to be made, though, to ensure that you have an adequate supply, they're being used properly, and that you're enforcing their use.
Now in lieu of surgical masks and N95 respirators that are in short supply and reserved for our health care workers or other medical first responders, the CDC is really recommending that everyone should wear that cloth face covering when they're in public. Remember the face covering's meant to protect other people in case the wearer is infected.
So that takes us to another question in the same vein. What's the difference between a face covering and a respirator?
Yeah that's a great question. And one that we get a lot, Chris. So remember, only respirators are approved to provide protection of the wearer from other people or other inhalation hazards around them. But the CDC doesn't recommend respirators for non-health care workers because of that short supply.
Remember, to qualify as a respirator it has to have an approval from NIOSH. So it'll have a NIOSH marking that will say something like N95, P100, and a code on it as well as the manufacturer. Respirator use for reducing exposures to other workplace hazards like metal fumes from welding, those must be NIOSH approved.
But for COVID-19, you know the CDC is recommending that we wear a face covering other than N95 respirators so that we can maintain those for our health care workers and first responders.
That's good, thank you. We had some questions about cleaning. What frequently touched surfaces should we be cleaning in a workspace? And how often should we be cleaning them?
So they can differ from industry to industry. But you know we're talking about things like common light switches, handles on doors, elevator buttons, trash receptacles if you're touching the lids. Again, those no-touch receptacles are best. And being in places and restroom facilities, so your faucets, your towel dispensers, again no-touch operation is ideal.
As far as frequency, the frequency of your cleaning and disinfection should really be increased proportionate to the number of people in the space and the frequency with which they're touching those surfaces. So consider removing any unnecessary items from the spaces. And then you don't need to clean or disinfect those.
OK I think you touched on this earlier, but I think it's worth repeating. Do you still need to follow a hand hygiene if employees are wearing gloves?
Yeah, we did talk about that but it's worth emphasizing, Chris. So once contaminated, gloves can become a means for spreading infectious materials to yourself, other people, or environmental surfaces. So wearing gloves is generally not required for non-healthcare settings unless hand washing facilities aren't readily accessible and when there's sustained close contact with a person.
Outside of those you probably don't need to wear gloves. You just need to have good hand hygiene and wash thoroughly and often.
OK and if you want to stay on time, I think we have time for one more question before I hand it back to Joan.
Bill, how do I stay current on COVID topics? What's the best source to go to?
So there's lots of sources. Travelers follows the guidance provided by the CDC, OSHA, and other federal, state, and local guidelines. You'll find much of that information from those sources on Travelers' COVID web page. However, if you want the most up to date information, it's always best to visit those sources directly.
Great, all right. Well thank you, Bill, and thank you, Joan, for having this part of this conversation today.
Well I can't think of two better people to speak about this as experts in your field. So Bill and Chris, thank you. And before we wrap this up, I really want to say that moving forward, planning and communication in your business is just essential. Everyone knows this.
But especially in these times of crisis, there are two directions that human nature can take you. One is fear and helplessness or the other is self-actualization and engagement. And we always want our employees to be engaged and really, really tuned in to what our leadership is thinking.
So on the latter, if leaders have a clear path forward people are amazingly resilient.
Text, Wednesdays with Woodward. Mark your calendar! Emotional and Social Reintegration in the Age of COVID-19. July 22, 2020. 1:00 PM EDT. An interview with Dr. Marcos Iglesias, Chief Medical Director, Travelers.
If you'd like more information on this topic, or others specifically, about the Wednesdays with Woodward webinar series, that's a tongue twister. Go to the Travelers Institute website.
And mark your calendars, our next webinar is going to be terrific as well it's going to be on Wednesday, July 22, a conversation with Dr. Marcos Iglesias, who is our Chief Medical Director here at Travelers, about protecting the mental and emotional health of your employees during the stress and anxiety time frame for them.
So on behalf of Chris, Bill, myself, and everyone here at Travelers, thank you for joining us today.
Text, Thank you.
These webinars are open to the public. This is not just our customers or agents. It is open to your family, your friends, anyone you think you could benefit.
We are the Public Policy division of Travelers and we aim to help our communities that we live and serve with this important information. So thanks for joining. And please be safe everyone. And we'll see you on July 22 Thanks.
To help businesses address COVID-19 in the workplace, Hayes and Shoemaker outlined the PATH framework:
Plan: Begin by assessing the risk level, formulating a strategy based upon that risk level and using resources such as the CDC, OSHA or state/local authorities.
Act: Put into place appropriate controls to reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace. Hayes and Shoemaker highlighted the “hierarchy of controls,” a concept commonly used by safety and risk managers. The COVID-19 hierarchy of controls should involve:
- Elimination: While businesses may not be able to eliminate the virus itself, businesses can discontinue tasks or functions that require large gatherings or close contact between employees. Since people are the source of transmission, businesses can remove some transmission sources by determining which employees are essential to being at the worksite and which employees can work from home. Other examples of elimination could include doing away with reception seating areas to prevent group gatherings; removing shared services, such as community coffee bars; and halting unnecessary travel.
- Substitution: Business owners are advised to replace activities and operations that require many people in small areas with activities that are more conducive to physical distancing, including running virtual conferences/trainings, using curbside delivery and utilizing larger conference venues to accommodate social distancing.
- Engineering: Business owners should establish controls that interrupt the pathway of transmission. These controls can deflect airborne aerosols from entering an employee’s breathing zone or eliminate physical contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. Businesses can install plastic barriers for bank tellers, cashiers and receptionists; use no-touch motion sensor-activated trash receptacles, faucets, soap dispensers and entry doors; reconfigure workstations to achieve a 6-foot separation distance; and establish flow patterns using either floor arrows or barriers and distance markings to help maintain 6 feet of separation.
- Administration: Businesses should enact clear policies and procedures, and train employees to be fluent in COVID-19 workplace safety. This can include modifying work shifts; reducing the occupancy of common areas, elevators or break rooms; and establishing hand hygiene, cleaning, and disinfecting practices and expectations.
Training and education: Almost every organization is going to have changes to processes and protocols, which will require ongoing communication and training. Businesses should communicate with employees before they come back to the workplace. Moreover, business owners should solicit feedback from employees; some of the best ideas in workplace safety come from the people working in the shop, on the line or on the warehouse floor. In addition, business leaders need to be flexible and willing to adapt; ideas that appeared promising in theory may not be effective in practice. Some controls will require a daily commitment from employees, and it is important that leaders get involved and model the way.
Health: To help reduce transmission pathways, regular and frequent cleaning and disinfection based on CDC guidelines are key. The CDC defines cleaning as a first step, using soap and water to physically remove dirt from surfaces. While cleaning may not kill germs, it lowers the risk of spreading infection and primes surfaces and objects for disinfection. Disinfecting refers to the cleaning of shared “high-touch” areas, such as entryways, lobbies, hallways, break rooms and restrooms, on a scheduled basis using an N-listed EPA disinfectant in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction. In addition, employees should be empowered and equipped to clean and disinfect their workspaces and tools.
Second Vice President, Travelers Risk Control
Industrial Hygiene Specialist, CIH, Travelers Risk Control