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Covid-19 Workplace Prevention Program: 11 Key Elements

Responding to President Joe Biden’s executive order on worker health and safety, on January 29 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued stronger guidance on identifying coronavirus exposure risks and implementing a COVID-19 Prevention Program at work. Having a program can help protect your employees from contracting the virus and keep your workforce doing what they are supposed to do, work.

Some jurisdictions, including the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board have already gone a step further and made a preventions program mandatory. Every business located or operating in California with more than one employee who are not working remotely must have a written Covid-19 Prevention Program in place.

The California guidelines, published weeks ago, can help you develop a program of your own now. We have pulled out what is relevant to contractors and summarized it below, so you don’t have to read the entire 23-page order.

You have our full permission to copy and paste this information into your own document and begin the process of customizing it to your business. You can thank us (and the State of California) by sharing this on your social media accounts; the more businesses who help prevent the spred, the better. We really are all in this together.

Covid-19 Workplace Prevention Program Overview

All employers should establish, implement, and maintain an effective, written COVID-19 Prevention Program. The written elements of the program should include:

1. System for Communicating

  • outline the process for an employee to report symptoms, exposures and hazards at the workplace
  • describe how you will accommodate employees with an increased risk of severe Covid-19 illness provide information about access to Covid-19 testing in your area
  • make a commitment to communicate information about Covid-19 hazards, policies and procedures to your employees, and any other person in contact with the workplace (which includes job sites)

2. Identification, Evaluation and Correction or Reduction of COVID-19 Hazards

  • Develop and implement a process for screening employees prior to work. This may include a written self-evaluation or temperature checks using non-contact thermometers
  • Conduct a workplace-specific identification of interactions, areas, activities, processes, equipment and materials that could potentially expose employees to Covid-19 and treat all persons in these situations, regardless of symptoms, as potentially infectious
  • For indoor locations, maximize the quantity of outdoor air and increase filtration to the highest level with existing ventilation systems
  • Periodically review and inspect local health department and industry-specific guidelines and your existing procedures
  • For every hazard identified above, the company shall implement effective policies and or procedures for correcting or reducing these unhealthy conditions

3. Training and Instruction

  • The employer must train and educate the employees about Covid-19, how it is spread, the symptoms, and methods to prevent its transmission
  • Training sessions should be documented as to who attended

4. Physical Distancing

  • All employees shall be separated from other people by at least six feet, except where you can demonstrate that six feet is not possible or momentary exposure while persons are in movement
  • When not possible, they need to remain as far apart as possible

5. Face Coverings

  • Employers shall provide face coverings and ensure they are worn by employees when indoors or when outdoors and less than six feet from another person
  • Exceptions include: when an employee is alone in a room, eating or drinking as long as they are 6 feet apart, if they are wearing other safety respirators already or if medical or mental health conditions restrict their use
  • If a specific task cannot feasibly be performed with a face covering, the person is exempt but limited to the period in which the task is being performed, and the person is either 6 feet away from others or tested for Covid-19 twice a week
  • Employers cannot prevent an employee from wearing a mask when they are not required to, unless it renders their task unsafe

6. Other Controls and Personal Protective Equipment

  • In fixed work locations where physical distancing is not possible, the employer shall install cleanable solid partitions to reduce aerosol transmission
  • Employers shall clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects and notify employees of the procedure and frequency
  • Prohibit sharing of PPE and other close contact items when feasible, such as tools, keyboards, pens, phones etc.
  • Complete cleaning and disinfecting of areas, materials and equipment a positive case has come in contact with
  • Employers to provide appropriate hand washing facilities and hand sanitizer and encourage employees to wash regularly
  • Employers evaluate the need and shall provide appropriate personal protective equipment not limited to, gloves, goggles and face shields

7. Employer Provided Transportation

  • Whenever possible, put employees from the same household together, and if not, then from the same crew
  • The operator and passengers are separated by at least three feet in all directions, regardless of vehicle capacity
  • Everyone in the vehicle is wearing a mask
  • Conduct daily screening questionnaires and exclude drivers and riders with symptoms, prior to boarding
  • All high contact surfaces (handles, seatbelts, armrests etc) are disinfected before each trip
  • High contact points for drivers (wheel, shifter etc) are disinfected between drivers
  • Windows are kept open when the weather conditions range between 60 and 90 degrees. When above or below that the heat or AC may be on as long as it is set to maximize outdoor air and not recirculate. Windows can also be closed during rain or snow, having the ventilation system running is still recommended
  • Employers shall provide hand sanitizer in each vehicle and ensure riders and drivers use it before and after each ride

8. Investigating and Responding to COVID-19 Cases

  • Determine day and time the case was last present and if possible the day and time they first experienced symptoms
  • Determine who may have had exposure to the case
  • Give notice to everyone who was exposed within 1 business day and send them home
  • Offer Covid-19 testing at no cost and during working hours to all employees with exposure
  • Investigate whether any workplace conditions could have contributed to exposure and what can be done to reduce or eliminate that hazard
  • Keep all personal information of cases and medical information confidential

9. Exclusion of Covid-19 Cases

  • All positive cases must be excluded from the workplace until the criteria in section 10 is met
  • Employees with exposure to a positive case must be excluded from the workplace for 14 days from the date of the exposure
  • Employees excluded from work due to positive test results or exposure and otherwise able and available to work shall maintain their earnings, seniority and all other rights and benefits as if they had not been removed from their job. Employers may use provided sick leave benefits for this purpose. This does not apply if the employer can demonstrate that the exposure is not work related
  • These regulations do not limit any other law, policy or collective bargaining agreement that provide greater protection

10. Return to Work Criteria

  • Cases with symptoms shall not return to work until:

1. At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications; and

2. Other COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and

3. At least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared

  • COVID-19 cases who tested positive but never developed COVID-19 symptoms shall not return to work until a minimum of 10 days have passed since the date of specimen collection of their first positive COVID-19 test
  • A negative COVID-19 test shall not be required for an employee to return to work
  • If an order to isolate or quarantine an employee is issued by a local or state health official, the employee shall not return to work until the period of isolation or quarantine is completed or the order is lifted

11. Reporting, Recordkeeping, and Access

  • Employers must report information about Covid-19 cases and deaths at the workplace to their local health department when required to by law
  • Employer shall maintain written records of their Covid-19 Prevention Program, and the steps taken to implement it and make it available to their employees
  • Record and Track all Covid-19 cases with names, contact info, occupation, location worked, date of last day worked, date of positive test and keep it confidential

How Harness Can Help

Harness can help make navigating the Covid-19 pandemic easier. Our platform has multiple ways to document, train, and track all the requirements mentioned above. Here are some of the ways our current clients are utilizing Harness in addition to their regular safety program:

  • Having each employee fill out a symptom self assessment on their own phone, prior to starting work each morning
  • Storing their Prevention Program so it is available to all their workers on all device types
  • Using our custom Covid-19 Toolbox Talks to train their workers on Covid-19 and document their attendance at the meeting
  • Recording information about positive cases and exposures
  • Documenting cleaning and disinfection schedules
  • Conducting inspections for potential Covid-19 Hazards and tracking how they are corrected

If you have a unique or industry specific Covid-19 concern, we are able to work with you to design a custom solution. If you have any questions or would like to talk more about how Harness can help you through these tough times, please book an appointment to speak with us.

Otherwise, feel free to check out these additional resources.

Top 5 Ways To Foster A Safety Culture In Your Construction Business
Best Construction Safety Apps
What Does Harness Software Cost?

By Sue Drummond

Sue Drummond knows that learning new technology can be intimidating and overwhelming sometimes. That's exactly why her role at Harness Software is to teach, guide and customize that fear away. Together with our clients, she sets project priorities, exchanges resources and shares best practices, all in an effort to achieve happier and healthier employees and safer job sites.