Reopening Workplaces Safely with a Return-to-Work Team

Return to Work Team MeetingWith so much uncertainty about the lasting impact of COVID-19 and regions beginning to lift stay at home orders, companies need to be prepared to welcome employees back. One way organizations can focus on how to best decrease the spread of the virus and lower the impact on the workplace is by putting together a Return to Work Team.

Employees Return to Work

As companies begin to navigate reopening, many are organizing internal teams to help coordinate efforts to safely reopen workplaces. Tesla, for instance, welcomed employees back early in May after careful planning and preparation, with the help of a team.

“A cross-functional response team, including an in-house physician, has been working daily to establish health and safety guidelines based on location- and job-specific risk assessments, and we are continuously reviewing our processes to ensure they work for our employees in this new environment,”  the company stated last month.

These teams are typically comprised of company leaders from a number of departments—like human resources, legal, building facilities, etc.—as well as line managers and assembly supervisors to ensure employee concerns are being voiced. You may also want to consider retaining external advisors, like public health officials, to provide additional guidance.

What does a Return to Work Team do?

Before operations are fully restarted, the team should conduct a thorough hazard assessment to evaluate the different roles and categorize exposure risk level for different job tasks. For example, assembly line workers may have a difficult time social distancing while administrative employees can easily distance among their desks. Hazard assessments should continue to be conducted whenever a new risk is identified or after controls are implemented.

Return to Work Team Duties

In addition to workplace hazard assessments, other key responsibilities assigned to the Return to Work Team may include:

  • Communicating state and local health officials to obtain timely and accurate information about COVID-19.
  • Updating the COVID-19 preparedness, response, and control plans.
  • Assessing the essential functions of your services or products as regions begin reopening in phases.
  • Keeping clear lines of communication with employees, making sure everyone is notified of these teams and all workers are given regular updates on changes in the workplace.
  • Suggesting and implementing engineering or administrative control measures to eliminate or reduce potential exposures to COVID-19.Keep Six Feet Apart Floor Sign
  • Creating procedures for conducting daily in-person or virtual health checks and temperature screenings.
  • Altering workspaces to maintain social distancing and establishing policies for social distancing.
  • Developing a sanitation protocol for equipment and tools to ensure routine cleaning.
  • Encouraging workers to follow CDC recommendations regarding hand washing, good respiratory etiquette, and the use of cloth face coverings.
  • Educating employees about steps they can take at work and at home to protect themselves.

Back to Operations

Employers face an enormous task of planning, preparing, and responding to COVID-19. Because different states have different requirements for going back to work, social distancing protocols, cleaning, and facemask requirements will be implemented in different ways. With guidance seemingly being issued every day, it’s vital to have a Return to Work Team focused on how the company can best protect employees and the community.

Additional Resources: 

CDC Guidance for Businesses & Employers

COVID-19 Topic Page from OSHA

Key OSHA Standards for COVID-19

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