In the past couple months, both the CDC and OSHA have updated guidance on how workplaces should handle COVID programs, such as vaccines and workplace protections.
As the availability of COVID-19 vaccines increases to a wider population, employers have an opportunity to implement on-site vaccination programs. CDC’s new guidance offers employers tips on how to implement such programs and outlines steps employers should take before reopening workplaces.
The guidance notes that these programs can benefit employers and workers. Employers are able to keep their workers healthy, which reduces absences and improves productivity. Workers benefit by the convenience of receiving the vaccine at work.
CDC encourages employers to partner with local health departments, and involve management, human resources and employees in the planning process. Planning should include gaining management support, naming a vaccine coordinator and working with local healthcare providers and pharmacies.
The agency also recommends that employers place educational materials in common areas throughout the work site to raise awareness of the program and communicate the importance of being vaccinated. Once the program is in place, CDC suggests staggering scheduling of vaccinations in case employees experience adverse side effects and need to miss any work time due to symptoms such as a post-vaccine fever. CDC advises employers to reference additional guidance on evaluating and managing post-vaccination symptoms.
Some other important factors to consider, according to the CDC, include:
- The necessity for employees to physically return to the workplace and whether telework options can continue
- Community transmission of the virus (how many infections there are and how fast it’s spreading)
- The ability to practice physical distancing and other preventive measures, like wearing masks, when in the workplace
- Local or state mandates for business restrictions
Workplace prevention programs
As we move into some form of normalcy and workplaces have reopened or plan to reopen soon, OSHA’s document entitled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” identifies several elements essential employers should include in their COVID-19 prevention programs:
- Conduct a hazard assessment.
- Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
- Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage, potentially infected workers to remain home.
- Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise coronavirus-related concerns.
- Ensure coronavirus policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English- speaking workers.
The guidance also details measures employers can implement to limit the spread of the virus, such as physical distancing protocols, use of surgical masks or cloth face coverings, and removing infected or potentially infected people from the workplace. In addition, the guidance offers best practices for the use of personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, routine cleaning and proper hygiene.
2021 hybrid events
The CDC has said that herd immunity could happen in the U.S. as soon as mid-summer, which is fantastic news for in-person events and conferences to resume in some form in fall 2021. With hundreds of thousands more people being vaccinated each week as states lower age requirements, it seems that we are headed in the right direction. However, recent news reports have shown that COVID cases are on the rise, as of late March, so it’s not quite time to celebrate.
Hopefully, events scheduled for late summer and fall will offer both virtual and in-person activities so those who are vulnerable and/or not yet vaccinated will still be able to attend without risk.