Essential Steps to Mitigate the Surge and Impact of COVID-19 on Your Business by Becoming Osha Compliant
As the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases surge worldwide, there is a real danger for organizations to lose more than just revenue and profits. The virus SARS-CoV2 that caused the sudden outbreak, has the potential to affect entire communities due to its extremely contagious nature. Owing to the absence of vaccine and medicines to combat the viral spread, people are left with prevention as the only option. In this scenario, organizations will need adopt a proactive approach to ensure employee safety and health.
Impact of COVID on Businesses
The biggest challenge for organizations is to stop the spread of the virus from one employee to another. As the virus can be transmitted even before symptoms develop in a person, the risk of exposure is high. As a result, organizations are experiencing various setbacks such as the following:
Transportation delays in material supply and product delivery – OEMs, raw material suppliers, vendors, distributors, and contractors are highly impacted due to lockdowns across geographies. While several organizations have to deal with supply delays, those located in severely affected regions are witnessing cancellations resulting in production closedowns.
Workers on sick leave – Organizations that depend on human labor are witnessing increased labor shortage due to workers being on sick leave or attending to infected family members. Employees are also reluctant to go to their workplace owing to the fear of being exposed to the virus.
Changing consumer demands – The consumer pattern has significantly changed with the exponential growth of COVID-19 transmission. While the demand for preventive gear such as ventilators, gloves, and masks has risen, sale of non-essential goods such as automobiles has declined.
To stop COVID-19 from completely overhauling business, organizations will need to follow the guidelines of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While OSHA’s directives are not mandated, it aims to prepare organizations to prevent spread of the infection.
Prepare and Control to Fight COVID-19: OSHA Guidelines
OSHA recommends having a plan in place so organizations can respond to the rapid spread of the pandemic. These recommendations have been introduced supplementary to OSHA’s other standards for different industries.
According to these guidelines, organizations will need to devise a response plan that aligns with the directives of the government and local health agencies. The plan should consider all the sources that could expose workers to the virus. In addition, organizations will need to prepare to handle situations of labor shortage, interrupted supply, and remote working to maintain social distance.
In order to address these concerns, organizations should classify workers according to their exposure risk. This will improve visibility into the varying levels of exposure risks and as a result enhance engineering and administrative controls and establish safe work practices. The categories and controls are as follows:
Workers with high to very high risk of exposure are healthcare professionals and those who are in direct contact with COVID-19 patients. OSHA recommends isolation rooms, maintenance of air-handling systems, and Biosafety Level 3 precautions for this category of professionals. Healthcare facilities are also required to provide gowns, face masks and shields, gloves, and other PPE. The workers must follow decontamination practices such as safely disposing off disposable masks and gloves and sanitizing their hands. Healthcare facilities are responsible for monitoring the workers’ health and psychological behaviors to support them in these stressful times.
Workers with medium risk of exposure are those who need to frequently travel or be within six feet of those who may be infected. For such workers, organizations should inform them about the disease symptoms and provide PPE depending on their work task. Workers showing symptoms of infection should be immediately isolated and provided with respirators.
Workers with lower risk of exposure constitute professionals who can work from home. OSHA recommends organizations maintain a collaborative environment for such workers to be able to communicate with colleagues and deliver work online.
Along with these recommendations, OSHA has established programs and consultation services to help organizations manage the safety and health of their employees. The programs offered provide organizations with compliance assistance, safety training, and on-site confidential consulting to high-hazard worksites.
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